Big Ten

Northwestern scores huge win over Maryland to advance to Big Ten Tournament semifinals

Northwestern scores huge win over Maryland to advance to Big Ten Tournament semifinals

WASHINGTON — Northwestern's dream season marches on.

The Wildcats advanced to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament with a 72-64 win over Maryland in front of an extremely pro-Terps crowd Friday night at the Verizon Center.

Northwestern will take on Wisconsin on Saturday with a chance to advance to the conference-tournament championship game. It's the first trip to the semifinals for the Cats.

A night after using a monster 31-0 run to blow past Rutgers, Northwestern again went on some huge runs in its win over Maryland. The first half featured a 20-4 run, and the Cats went on a 20-2 run in the second half.

Northwestern was red hot shooting the ball over the final 20 minutes, shooting 58.3 percent from the field. The Cats shot a scorching 55.3 percent on the game.

After some quality opening minutes from Maryland, Northwestern busted off a 20-4 run to go from down eight to up 10. At one point the Cats made seven straight shots. They got two Vic Law 3-pointers and a triple from Scottie Lindsey during the stretch, also getting five straight points from Isiah Brown off a pair of Terps turnovers.

But Maryland answered Northwestern's big run with a big run of its own, outscoring the Cats 18-6 over the first half's final eight and a half minutes. Northwestern couldn't get on the board during that stretch, going without a basket over the final four and a half minutes before halftime. Bryant McIntosh and Sanjay Lumpkin didn't help things in that stretch, missing back-to-back front ends of 1-and-1 free-throw tries. And L.G. Gill's buzzer-beating bucket to end the first half gave the Terps a two-point lead at the break.

Both teams shot really well over the opening 20 minutes, Northwestern shooting 52.2 percent and Maryland shooting 51.9 percent. The Cats were 5-for-10 from 3-point range but missed four free throws. Though Northwestern turned the ball over nine times in the first half, three more than Maryland, the Cats scored 11 points off turnovers compared to nine by the Terps. Northwestern had the rebounding edge, but Maryland owned the paint scoring by a 20-6 margin.

The Terps stayed hot to start the second half, coming out of the locker room with eight straight points to take a double-digit lead. But the Cats responded with seven straight of their own, part of a 12-2 run to tie the game at 46 and a 20-2 run to take an eight-point lead with about seven minutes to play as the Terps went about six minutes without a point. A Maryland 3 stopped that drought, and Melo Trimble's layup cut the lead down to three with five and a half minutes to play. Law responded for Northwestern, hitting a jumper and getting a fast-break bucket off a Maryland turnover to push the Cats' lead to seven with three and a half minutes to go. That lead touched nine moments later on a Lindsey bucket and got to 13 after Lumpkin, Law and McIntosh connected on six straight free throws. The lead never shrunk below eight the remainder of the game.

Northwestern scored a whopping 25 points off 14 Maryland turnovers, won the rebounding battle and scored 11 second-chance points.

For the second straight Big Ten Tournament game, Law and Lindsey both led the Cats in scoring with 17 points apiece. The two guys struggling to find their shot at regular season's end have been huge in two conference-tournament games. McIntosh had 16 points Friday.

Trimble scored 20 for Maryland, with Kevin Huerter scoring 19.

Northwestern is again in uncharted territory. In the Big Ten Tournament semis for the first time, the Cats continued to add to their program-record win total, now at 23 on the season. A win over a Maryland team that spent much of the season in the top 25, Northwestern's NCAA tournament seed should get a nice boost. This will go down as one of the Cats' biggest resume-building wins of the season.

Pat Fitzgerald, Lovie Smith in top 10 of an intriguing college coach list

Pat Fitzgerald, Lovie Smith in top 10 of an intriguing college coach list

Northwestern and Illinois’ college football programs are ranked in the top 10 this year.

Kind of.

One esteemed name in the college football ranks has placed Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald atop the list of the all-time greatest college coaches…ranked as players. Illini coach Lovie Smith ranks at No. 10.

Rich Cirminiello, Director of College Awards for the Maxwell Football Club, compiled the list and he is an excellent follow on Twitter. He has several other noteworthy lists of interest, including the top college football players who are now coaches in the NFL. Psst…spoiler alert: several local connections are on that particular list as well, including Saints head coach Sean Payton (QB, Eastern Illinois) and Ron Rivera (LB, California).

But back to Coach Fitz, who bleeds purple and has emphatically put the NU football program on the map since the mid-90s. He was a two-time All-American in addition to receiving consecutive Bronco Nagurski, Chuck Bednarik and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors as a linebacker (1995-96). He helped guide the Wildcats to the ’96 Rose Bowl. Since becoming the team’s head coach in 2006, he has led the program to nine bowl games (four wins).

We all know Lovie Smith’s coaching legacy with the Bears and his rebuilding of the Illinois football program, but did you know how much he dominated as a college player? He played for Tulsa from 1976-79, racking up 367 career tackles primarily as a safety. He was a three-time All-Missouri Valley Conference award winner and earned a second-team All-America mention in 1978. He was also named MVC Newcomer of the Year after he tallied 90 tackles as a freshman.

[MORE: Lovie Smith, Mike Tirico discuss systemic racism 

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, who passed for over 11,000 yards in seven seasons as a Chicago Bear, ranked No. 2 on Cirminiello’s list. In a follow-up tweet, Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck, who dominated as a wide receiver at NIU and at nearby Kaneland High School, came in at No. 20. Western Michigan’s Tim Lester —a star player at Wheaton Warrenville South HS— is in at No. 7.

Who said that the Land of Lincoln didn’t have top college football talent?

Northwestern Wildcats athletic department begins phased return to campus

Northwestern Wildcats athletic department begins phased return to campus

Professional, collegiate and prep sports have been on hold in Illinois since mid-March but it looks like there may be more light at the end of the tunnel. This time, in Evanston.

Northwestern University announced Thursday that a phased reopening of the athletic department, in tandem with NU’s overall policy for a return to campus, will include student athlete workouts on Monday June 22.

The relaunch of athletics at Northwestern during the COVID-19 pandemic comes as the state of Illinois is progressing in its own planned reopening, as dictated by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The sports medicine staff, athletic trainers and student-athletes with post-injury needs were welcomed back earlier this month and other select groups will be admitted back to campus next week.

Athletes will be required to complete a full physical upon arrival in Evanston on June 22. They will be screened before entering on-site facilities by means of a wellness check and a no-touch temperature scan.

Facility access will be managed through one entrance and exit. Locker facilities and lounges will remain closed, though, along with dining centers.

[MORE: Shortened NFL preseason puts big group of players at a disadvantage]

The Wildcats football team, along with both the men’s and women’s basketball programs, are penciled in to begin those voluntary workouts a week from Monday. Each unit should have plenty of motivation once they hit the playing surface.

Head coach Pat Fitzgerald and company are eager to put last year’s 3-9 mark behind them. On the hardwood, Chris Collins’ group needs a quick bounce-back after an 8-23 mark last season while the women’s team, under the tutelage of Big Ten Coach of the Year Joe McKeown, are looking to build off a stellar 2019-20 campaign. They won the their first conference championship since 1989-90 and boasted a school record 26 wins.

 

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