ROSEMONT, Ill. — Northwestern coach Chris Collins is looking for more communication on defense. He wants to see his team take better care of the ball, and he is searching for more production from his reserves.
The Wildcats have been good enough so far. That won’t be good enough in their next game.
Bryant McIntosh scored 10 of his 17 points in the second half, and No. 20 Northwestern held off Saint Peter’s for a 75-66 victory on Monday night.
“It’s a long game and we had a couple lapses,” McIntosh said. “We made a few mistakes, and they made some good plays, too. So it wasn’t just all on us.”
The Wildcats placed each of their starters in double figures in their second straight lackluster win to begin the season. Dererk Pardon scored 15 points, Gavin Skelly finished with 14 and Scottie Lindsey had 12 points and six assists.
Northwestern (2-0) made the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time in school history. The Wildcats returned four starters, but they are still looking for a complete effort through two games.
They allowed 51 points in the second half of a 79-75 win against Loyola (Md.) on Friday. They committed 17 turnovers against Saint Peter’s, helping smaller Peacocks stay competitive throughout the night.
“We’ve had two games now where we’ve been in the negative, turnovers to assists, and that’s not a good recipe for us,” Collins said, “because we’re a good team, and we can be a very good team, but we don’t necessarily have the kind of firepower to withstand 17 to 20 turnovers.”
Next up is a step up in competition, with Creighton coming to town on Wednesday night.
“We got to put 40 minutes together,” Collins said, “and we’re going to have to be really locked in defensively. … I know they’re a really good team.”
Nick Griffin scored 19 points for the Peacocks (0-2), who lost 61-40 to La Salle in their season opener on Saturday. Samuel Idowu and Cameron Jones each had 14 points.
“I thought once we settled into the game we gained confidence and we executed,” coach John Dunne said. “So I am, I’m proud of my team, for sure.”
Northwestern looked sluggish for much of the first half and Saint Peter’s stayed close by using much of the shot clock when it had the ball, forcing the Wildcats to work on defense. Saint Peter’s also made five of its 10 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes, but Northwestern used its superior athleticism and outside shooting to pull away over the middle of the game.
Anthony Gaines made a layup and connected from long range to run the Northwestern lead out to 54-36 with 12:22 to go. Saint Peter’s pulled within seven on Davauhnte Turner’s layup with 32 seconds left, but Lindsey hit two free throws to help close it out.
Saint Peter’s: The Peacocks shot 30.6 percent and committed 17 turnovers in their loss to the Explorers, so it was a marked improvement from their performance in their first game. Jones and Griffin each came up with a couple big shots when Saint Peter’s got into trouble.
Northwestern: The Wildcats are playing their home games at Allstate Arena this season while Welsh-Ryan Arena undergoes a $110 million renovation. Allstate is about 14 miles away from their campus, and it looks as if the team is still adjusting to what could be a much more subdued atmosphere at home this year. It was a quiet, sparse crowd for the matchup with the Peacocks.
Saint Peter’s: Plays Sacred Heart on Saturday night at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Northwestern: Hosts Creighton on Wednesday night. The Wildcats play five games in 10 days to begin the season.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap
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