Rosemont, Ill. — Northwestern has rediscovered its winning ways and everyone seems convinced Texas Tech provided the necessary motivation.
Coming off the school’s first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance and a preseason top-25 ranking, the Wildcats may have fallen a little too in love with themselves early in the season. But their joyride ended with a 36-point loss to Texas Tech at the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off on Nov. 19.
Since then, Northwestern has rededicated itself and it’s evident. Led by Vic Law’s 18 points, an 84-50 thrashing of Valparaiso on Thursday night is the latest evidence of a turnaround for the Wildcats, who have won three of four games.
“Sometimes you have to get beat in order to rediscover kind of what makes you good,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “You never like to go through that. It’s not fun. For our guys, maybe because of the heightened expectations coming into the year, it was a lot more publicized than maybe it would be in the past. But we had to go through that.
“I’m really proud of the way our guys have come together and hopefully we can keep making strides.”
Coming off the biggest win in program history, the Wildcats (7-4) rode Law’s early hot hand and a stifling team defensive effort to a second straight decisive victory. Northwestern, which beat Chicago State by 65 points on Monday after a seven-day layoff, went on runs of 17-1 and 20-2 for its third win in four games. Law connected on his first four 3-point tries and the Wildcats finished 12-for-22 from behind the arc.
“I think we got comfortable,” Gavin Skelly, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, said. “Coach says we got fat. We went to the tournament for the first time. Everyone’s telling you how great you are, how awesome you are. You kind of get a little lazy.
“We thought we were doing all right and then Texas Tech exposed us.”
Valparaiso, which was without leading scorer Tevonn Walker for a second straight game because of illness, was out of sorts on the offensive end.
The Crusaders (8-3) didn’t make a basket for 8 minutes, 21 seconds in the first half and endured a similar stretch for the first 6:53 of the second half. By the time they scored, they trailed 62-28 en route to their third straight loss.
Without Walker’s 16-point scoring average, Valparaiso (8-3) couldn’t keep up. After a Derrik Smits jumper got them within 13-10 at the 15:30-mark, the Crusaders continually turned the ball over and didn’t make another basket until they were down by 18. Joe Burton scored 16 points for Valparaiso, which finished with 21 turnovers and attempted 22 fewer shots than Northwestern.
“We’re young, we’re turning the ball a ton,” Valparaiso coach Matt Lottich said. “We’ve just got to be better. We’ve got to execute better. And we’ve got to compete better.”
(At) No. 21 Baylor 99, Texas Southern 68: Manu Lecomte scored 22 points after missing a game with a left thumb injury, and No. 21 Baylor rolled to a victory over winless Texas Southern.
Playing with a wrap on his non-shooting thumb, the Bears point guard had a game-high six assists in the 46th consecutive home win over an unranked nonconference opponent for Baylor (8-2), and third straight since losing to No. 3 Wichita State on the Waco campus.
Nuni Omot matched Lecomte with 22 points in the first game since scoring a career-high 30, and Jo Lual-Acuil had 18 points and two blocks. Baylor improved to 11-0 against Texas Southern as the teams met for the fourth straight year.
Trae Jefferson scored 24 points for the Tigers (0-10), who are playing every November and December game away from home for the third straight year.