PISCATAWAY, N.J. — In a game featuring a program reaping the benefits of a rebuild against a program resetting after hitting rock bottom, it was a tale of two halves.
Vic Law scored a game-high 21 points while Scottie Lindsey added 14 and Isiah Brown came off the bench to score 11 to lead Northwestern past Rutgers 69-60 on Thursday night.
Rutgers (11-7, 0-5 Big Ten) jumped out to a 7-0 lead and led 28-19 with 2:04 left in the half before Northwestern (14-4, 3-2) was able to cut it to 28-25 at the break.
“They’re tough,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “This was a really good win for us. We had to earn it. I thought they did a great job of taking us out of almost everything we wanted to do with their defense, their athleticism and their physicality. We just had to keep playing. Kind of muck it out. I felt very fortunate to only be down only three at half because we had been outplayed by more than that.”
Northwestern went on a 6-0 run early in the second half to take its first lead of the game, 33-32. The Wildcats’ largest lead was 15 at 62-47 with 2:52 to play.
“We just came out so sluggish in the first half and we were just trying to play our way in to the game,” Law said. “They threw the first punch at us right away and we weren’t prepared, so second half we had a lot more fire, a lot more pop and we wanted to throw the first punch in the second half, so we had a lot more energy in the second half.”
Corey Sanders led Rutgers with 18 points while Deshawn Freeman had 12 points and 15 rebounds. Rutgers shot just 31.9 percent from the floor and 65.2 percent from the free-throw line.
Over the course of the past three weeks, Rutgers has struggled to put a complete game together.
“Like Coach (Steve Pikiell) said, we’re almost there,” Freeman said. “I stress to the guys every game that we can’t be almost there. We need to go 40 minutes straight.”
Northwestern: Earning votes in the AP poll earlier this season as they try to make the first NCAA Tournament in history, the Wildcats have won consecutive games after a two-game skid. Northwestern started the season 12-2, including a nine-game winning streak.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights are on a six-game losing streak as they seek their first Big Ten win of the season and the first conference win for first-year coach Pikiell. In their third year in the Big Ten, they are 3-38 in league play.
MOMENT OF SILENCE
Rutgers held a moment of silence prior to the game for former Northwestern women’s basketball player Jordan Hankins. The 19-year-old was found dead in her dorm room on Monday. On Tuesday, the Cook County medical examiner released an autopsy report that said Hankins killed herself.
Northwestern wore patches on its jerseys with her initials and her uniform number, 5.
Northwestern had a program record 15 blocks in the game with Dererk Pardon leading the way with eight, the second-most by a Northwestern player. The Wildcats entered the game ranked 10th in the country in blocks with six per game.
STRUGGLES FROM 3
Both teams had poor nights shooting beyond the arc: Rutgers was 1 of 12 while Northwestern was 3 of 20.
Northwestern ended a five-game stretch to open Big Ten play that included four road games. Rutgers returned home after playing five of the last six on the road.
Lindsey has now scored in double figures in all 18 games this season, the most consecutive games a Northwestern player has scored in double figures for the first time since John Shurna had 22 straight in 2011-12. It’s the most consecutive to start a season since Evan Eschmeyere started with 24 in a row in 1998-99.
Northwestern: Returns home to host Iowa on Sunday.
Rutgers: Travels to Indiana on Sunday.