Northwestern jars Central Connecticut State 70-64
EVANSTON, Ill.—It might have been a little closer than Northwestern would have expected against Central Connecticut State, but the Wildcats did find a new scorer Saturday.
Reggie Hearn, who had been averaging 5.6 points, scored 15 of his career-high 17 points in the second half, including a three-point play with 55 seconds left, as Northwestern held off the Blue Devils 70-64.
Central Connecticut State (5-5) came within 63-62 with 1:35 left on a 3-pointer by Ken Horton before Hearn's decisive play made it 66-62. The Blue Devils' Robby Ptacek made two free throws to close the margin to 66-64 at the 42-second mark.
The Wildcats (9-1) then worked the clock down to 13 seconds, when Drew Crawford hit a spinning one-handed shot in the lane for a 68-64 margin.
"Reggie stepped up big for us," said Crawford, who scored 14 points. "One of the things that's required on our team is knocking down big shots when you're open. Knocking down shots when you have the opportunity. Reggie was really getting those opportunities."
Said Northwestern coach Bill Carmody:
"Reggie and Drew sort of bailed us out and made some nice plays in the second half,"
The Blue Devils almost bailed it out for themselves.
"I thought if we could get a stop at the end we would be good, have a chance to come down and make a shot," Central Connecticut coach Howie Dickenman said. "But we didn't get that stop."
Hearn, a calm and collected junior, was 6 of 7 from the field, including 4 of 4 from behind the arc.
"I still made a couple of turnovers," Hearn said. "Threw it to the ref one time. There are other areas I could have improved. I just happened to hit my shots."
A walk-on as a freshman, Hearn has played on scholarship the last two seasons.
"I saw that he could do a lot of things," Carmody said about Hearn's previous experience.
Then he smiled about his new scorer.
"He's a little bit of a cool Joe kind of a guy," Carmody said, "so I've got to get him moving a little bit."
Central Connecticut State freshman Kyle Vinales scored a game-high 27 points.
The second half was close throughout. Northwestern held the biggest lead at 56-49. The lead was just one point on seven occasions, with two lead changes and two ties.
Northwestern led 30-29 at halftime after John Shurna sank a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left.
Shurna, the Wildcats' leading scorer at 19.0, was limited to 12 points. He shot only 3 of 14, including 1 of 9 on 3-pointers, though he made all five free throws.
Luka Mirkovic scored 10 points to go along with five assists and fed Hearn on the three-point play in the final minute. Mirkovic and Shurna had eight rebounds apiece.
The Blue Devils' Ptacek scored 17 points and Horton had 15 points and 11 rebounds for his 21st double-double.
"Rebounding was good," Dickenman said. "Defense was good. Everything was good except for the final score."
Central Connecticut State outrebounded Northwestern 40-35. The Wildcats shot 9 of 29 from 3-point range, while the Blue Devils were 8 for 21.
"That's a good team," Carmody said. "They have good players. We knew that."
This is the third consecutive season that Northwestern has started 9-1. The Wildcats will play their third game in four days when they host Eastern Illinois on Sunday night. Central Connecticut State will host La Salle on Thursday.