ROSEMONT, Ill — Sporting special jerseys for the even more special occasion, a trio of Wildcats donned the Northwestern uniform on their home floor for the final time on Thursday night as they played host to the Wisconsin Badgers.
Sadly, the final ‘home’ game for seniors Bryant McIntosh, Scottie Lindsey and Gavin Skelly was more like a road game, as the majority of the crowd at the Allstate Arena in west-suburban Rosemont was wearing red in support of the opposing Badgers. Senior Scottie Lindsey fittingly opened the scoring on the evening by hitting a three-pointer to give the ‘Cats an early 3-0 lead, but Wisconsin made it known early that they weren’t there for the festivities as they ran out to a 12-5 lead in the opening minutes of the contest.
After Khalil Iverson and the Badgers stretched their lead out to as many as 13 points with just under 14 minutes to play in the opening half, Northwestern would chip away, shrinking the Badgers lead to just one point with 3:03 to play in the opening stanza. After holding Wisconsin without a basket for nearly five minutes, Brant McIntosh made it a slim 31-30 Badgers lead after hitting a mid-range jumper.
McIntosh scored nine points and logged four assists and a pair of rebounds after missing the previous two games with a bum shoulder. Scottie Lindsey led the Wildcats, and all players in scoring with 15 points in the first half, while fellow senior Gavin Skelly was held to just a pair of points.
While the Wildcats would regain the lead momentarily in the second half on a Bryant McIntosh jumper, the Badgers would jump back ahead for good, spoiling the Wildcats’ final home game of the season in front of a half-filled Allstate Arena that consisted of mostly Wisconsin red throughout the seats.
Wisconsin left the Wildcats with a sour taste in their mouth of senior night, knocking off Northwestern 70-64 on Thursday night, dropping Northwestern to 15-15 on the season and 6-11 in conference play with their 5th consecutive loss.
Scottie Lindsey led the Wildcats with 26 points, his 13th such performance in his Northwestern career. Bryant McIntosh’s six assists moved him into 6th all time in Big Ten history with 693 during his 127 games as a Wildcat. Gavin Skelly was limited to just four points on the night, but Skelly has a place in Northwestern history, sitting at 8th all time in school history with 91 blocked shots.
Bryant McIntosh, Scottie Lindsey and Gavin Skelly will probably never say it, but I will — this game lacked the appropriate send-off for a trio of players that were so instrumental in putting this school’s hoops program back on the map in recent years. Sure, the custom uniforms that they helped inspire were cool, and the post-game ceremony was on-par with, if not better than the ceremony every other program holds for their seniors, but after what these three accomplished during their time there, this wasn’t good enough. This game should have been special, but it was merely a road game with minimal travel, like all of their ‘home’ games this season.
The unfortunate timing of the construction at the Wildcats’ natural home court Welsh-Ryan Arena was unfortunate on many levels, one being the theory that it was in some way undoubtedly tied into the NCAA Tournament hang over that bogged the Wildcats down this season. The other, and the more important point tonight, is that it stole the opportunity for the trio of seniors that helped put Northwestern back on the map, the opportunity to play a true final home game in front of a surely sold-out and raucous Northwestern crowd in Evanston.
Regardless of the unjust timing, and the unfitting send-off — this trio has, as Head Coach Chris Collins has said many times, “left a special legacy within this program.”