ROSEMONT—Northwestern may want to petition to take another full week off in the future.Vic Law scored 18 points and the Wildcats followed a seven-day layoff with the largest margin of victory in program history, beating Chicago State 96-31 on Monday night.Northwestern (6-4) also established a program record for the fewest points yielded in a half in the shot-clock era as it raced out to a 55-8 lead at halftime. The 31 points allowed marked the second-lowest point total ever given up by a Wildcats team in the shot-clock era. The 65-point differential topped Northwestern’s 101-49 victory over Mississippi Valley State on Dec. 14, 2014.
”We kind of refocused ourselves,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. ”The first five games we kind of got away from what made us good (defensively) in the past. It wasn’t like our character was bad or our attitude. We had to get back to work. We had to regain our edge. We had to regain our spirit.”
Apparently, Finals Week did the trick.After splitting a pair of early Big Ten conference meetings, including a Dec. 3 loss at Purdue, the Wildcats didn’t practice until Wednesday so players could take final exams.But instead of looking like a team coming off a long layoff, NU was energized early. Bolstered by torrid 3-point shooting and a swarming defense, the Wildcats scored the first 15 points of the contest and added a 21-0 run before halftime. Northwestern shot 9-for-16 from behind the arc and had assists on 14 of its 16 first-half buckets.Aaron Falzon added 15 points for the Wildcats, who began a stretch of three games in six days with a season-high for points and assists (20).Chicago State (2-11), which had scoreless droughts of 4 minutes, 40 seconds and 6 minutes, 40 seconds, made just 2-of-19 shots and committed 15 turnovers before the half. The 25 turnovers forced by Northwestern also was a season-high.
”We hadn’t played in over a week and we were coming off a loss and hadn’t started the season the (way) we wanted to,” Falzon said. ”So it’s always important to get out to a good start and just playing good basketball.”
Cameron Bowles scored eight points for the Cougars, who were 8-of-40 shooting.The Cougars haven’t shied away from facing experienced competition. Northwestern is one of 13 opponents this season that played in a postseason tourney in the 2016-17 campaign, including six NCAA Tournament schools. The Wildcats defense continued a strong stretch, holding CSU to 20-percent shooting from the field and forcing 25 turnovers. Northwestern entered Monday having yielded 61 points a contest in its previous four games after allowing 78 per in its first five efforts.The 55 points produced by the Wildcats before halftime was the most the school has scored in a half since it dropped 55 on Sacred Heart on Dec. 21, 2015. Northwestern’s 96-point effort was the most it has produced since a 98-59 victory over Rutgers on Feb. 27, 2016.
”They were playing a lot of zone,” Collins said. ”We talked about sharing the ball and getting in the gaps. I thought our guys played very unselfishly.I just thought we played the right way. That’s what you want out of your team.”
Before Monday’s game, Northwestern announced that redshirt first-year forward Rapolas Ivanauskas would miss the rest of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery on Friday. Ivanauskas only appeared in three contests and had played 11 minutes this season. He missed the entire 2016-17 season after undergoing a procedure on the same shoulder.Chicago State hosts Bradley on Saturday.Northwestern hosts Valparaiso on Thursday.