ROSEMONT, Ill. — Being ranked in the preseason poll for the first time in school history may have had Bryant McIntosh and his Northwestern teammates uptight.
Scottie Lindsey scored 26 points, Derek Pardon added 16 and No. 19 Northwestern held off Loyola (Md.) 79-75 on Friday night.
Northwestern (1-0) won despite blowing a 17-point lead in the second half. Brent Holcombe made a 3 to get Loyola (0-1) within 75-73 with 1:28 remaining after a shot clock violation by Northwestern. Loyola had a chance to tie but Holcombe turned the ball over with 16 seconds left. McIntosh, who was fouled after the turnover, made two free throws to put the Wildcats ahead. Trailing 77-75, the Greyhounds had one more chance after Lindsey missed two free throws with 5 seconds left, but the Greyhounds turned the ball over.
Northwestern returned four starters from a school-record 24-win season, including its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament and a win there before losing to national runner-up Gonzaga.
“I think maybe some people outside may think we’re getting a little full of ourselves or something, but I think right now we’re putting a little too much pressure on ourselves to be what everyone thinks we are,” McIntosh said. “It’s early in the season, we have a lot to learn, we have a big ceiling, we just have to go to work and go back to having fun. I thought we didn’t have a lot of emotion. I thought we were kind of lifeless tonight.”
McIntosh finished with 16 points and was 8-for-8 from the free throw line.
Andrew Kostecka scored a career-high 22 points and Cam Gregory added 18 for Loyola in the season opener for both schools.
Northwestern appeared to have a comfortable 37-24 lead at halftime and extended the lead to 17 points early in the second half, but the Wildcats had trouble with their offense and containing Kostecka in the second half. Kostecka got the Greyhounds within 55-53 on a 3-pointer and Gregory tied the game at 55. The Greyhounds took the lead on a 3-pointer by Holcombe with 7:02 left.
“It’s frustrating. We were up by 17 and we just never finished it and it is to their credit. They hit some shots and made a run,” McIntosh said. “Thankfully we’re able to walk out of here with a win, but certainly a lot we can learn from.”
Lindsey broke a 68-all tie with a 3, and Pardon had a basket to put the Wildcats up 74-68 with 2:15 left.
“Unbelievable effort, I’m not big on moral victories, our guys are disappointed because we gave ourselves a chance to win, but it gives a lot of confidence,” Loyola coach G.G. Smith said.
The Wildcats played their first game at Allstate Arena, 14 miles off campus. They are playing all their home games at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, a suburb of Chicago, as Welsh-Ryan Arena undergoes a $110 million renovation.
G Aaron Falzon missed the game for Northwestern with a hip injury.
Last season, Lindsey missed several games midway through the season to mononucleosis. He didn’t appear to regain his energy to the postseason, but on Friday, he showed what he is capable of when at 100 percent. “Scottie can really score, we’re relying on him to do that because, especially when you’re down a guy (Aaron Falzon) who we think is a double-digit scorer, we need those guys that can put it in the basket,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said.
VIC ON D:
Vic Law was assigned to cover Loyola’s returning leading scorer Andre Walker. “That’s who Vic is. We feel that Vic is one of the more versatile defenders in the country,” Collins said. He limited Walker to eight points.
Lindsey, who mainly played off the ball last season, handled some of the point guard duty. This should take pressure off McIntosh, who was their primary ballhandler and scorer last season. McIntosh led the team in scoring last season, averaging 14.8 per game.
Loyola visits Fairfield on Tuesday. Fairfield finished the 2016-17 season with a 16-15 record.
Northwestern hosts Saint Peter’s on Monday before hosting Creighton on Wednesday.