“OK, we won a game yesterday. If we win today, it's called ‘two in a row.’ And if we win again tomorrow, it's called a ‘winning streak…’” fictional manager Lou Brown tells his comically bad Cleveland Indians team in the movie Major League, “... It’s happened before.”
Thursday night, Northwestern men's basketball head coach Chris Collins may have been telling his team a similar message. After trouncing a flagging Rutgers team 98-59 on Saturday, Northwestern (19-11, 7-10 B1G) defeated Penn State (15-15, 6-11 B1G) 71-61 on the road to earn their second straight win against a struggling conference opponent, as the Wildcats look to salvage their once promising season with a crucial winning streak.
It has happened before.
The 'Cats opened the season on a three-game winning streak, and when that snapped, spun together another ten wins to start the year 13-1. But since entering B1G play, they haven’t been able to gather any momentum towards sustained success, winning consecutive games only one time before this week.
Yet if it can happen again, it will likely play out like it did Thursday night. Fifth-year senior guard Tre Demps and sophomore guard Bryant McIntosh, the athletic combination behind most of NU's victories this season, combined for 40 points in a game that was never close.
Demps and Mcintosh came out firing, each nailing a three to put NU in the driver's seat, up 8-5 within the first three minutes. The Nittany Lions tied it at 13-13, but after a two-pointer from Demps put NU ahead 15-13, the ‘Cats didn’t look back.
Demps, who ranks 11th in the Big Ten with 15.4 points per game, led the first half charge from both inside and outside the arc. His 19 first half points staked Northwestern to 42-27 lead going into halftime.
Penn State outscored NU in the second half, but it was too little too late for the Nittany Lions. McIntosh scored 10 second half points, freshman power forward Aaron Falzon added a pair of threes and Northwestern cruised to an easy victory. Demps finished with 23 points and McIntosh added 17.
With a victory on Sunday at home against Nebraska, Norhtwestern would set a new team record for regular season wins and position themselves squarely on the NIT bubble heading into the B1G conference tournament.