NU stuns #7 Wisconsin in Madison 66-59

Northwestern Wildcats (1981 - Pres)

MADISON—The Northwestern Wildcats were dancing on the sideline before the second half started. They were downright giddy by the end of the game, stomping off the Kohl Center court.In beating No. 7 Wisconsin 66-59 on Sunday, Northwestern secured an important win for the school’s bid to make its first-ever NCAA Tournament.Bryant McIntosh scored 25 points and Dererk Pardon added 11 for the defensive-minded Wildcats (19-6, 8-4), who confounded the Big Ten-leading Badgers in part by doubling dominant big man Ethan Happ.

”I’ve talked about it since I’ve been here,” fourth-year coach Chris Collins said. ”We’re trying to build a program to emulate what Wisconsin has done.”

Nigel Hayes scored nine of his 13 points in the second half for the Badgers (21-4, 10-2), who had their eight-game winning streak snapped.The Badgers didn’t let up despite falling behind by 10 points with 1 minute left, closing to 60-55 in less than 15 seconds after Zak Showalter hit two foul shots.But McIntosh followed with two free throws with 42 seconds left, and Wisconsin ran out of time. McIntosh finished 10 of 23 from the field.

”I thought I was a gunner, but I never put 23 up in a game. … I’ve got nothing to say to him anymore,” Collins, a former Duke guard, joked as he looked in the direction of a smiling McIntosh.

Wisconsin opened the second half with a 10-0 run, looking as if it had solved its offensive woes. Northwestern pulled away for good answering with an 8-0 run capped by Pardon’s dunk with 13:24 left to take a 39-32 lead.Minus leading scorer Scottie Lindsey because of illness for a third straight game, Northwestern relied on defense to end a two-game skid.The Wildcats (40.3 percent) and Badgers (40.5 percent) led the Big Ten in field goal defense coming into the game. Wisconsin got off to a decent start from the field before the Wildcats knocked the offense out of rhythm with double-teams on Happ. NU held Wisconsin to just two field goals over the final 10 minutes of the first half to take a 31-22 lead at halftime.Wisconsin: Happ isn’t known for his jumper. But he made an open 17-footer early in the first half that had Badgers fans going nuts. One of the top big men in the Big Ten, Happ could be even more difficult to guard if the 6-foot-10 forward poses even the slightest threat of being able to hit from outside the post. But double-teams were the bigger problem on Sunday, especially when Happ got the ball deep in the post.Just as important for the Wildcats were the double-teams on Happ that forced turnovers and threw the Badgers out of rhythm. Wisconsin did get some decent looks at times, especially early in the second half. Overall, they didn’t hit enough open shots.Wisconsin similarly had some trouble against double-teams in a 70-69 win in overtime on Thursday at Nebraska.

”We just made a conscious decision. … We’ve got to take away the paint,” Collins said.

Bronson Koenig, who is playing with a nagging lower left leg injury, was 1 of 8 for two points in 30 minutes, missing all five of his 3-point attempts. Gard said the injury played a role in part in sitting his best perimeter player during a key stretch in the middle of the second half.At one point in the middle of the game, Wisconsin went with four guards on the court but without their top three players in Happ, Hayes and Koenig.NU Plays the first of two home games this week by hosting No. 21 Maryland on Wednesday.

Bulls without Butler, Wade(again)hammered by T-Wolves

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MINNEAPOLIS—Andrew Wiggins scored 27 points and Karl-Anthony Towns added 22 to help the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the severely short-handed Bulls 117-89 on Sunday.Ricky Rubio had 17 points, 11 assists and six rebounds and Minnesota shot 54 percent to help coach Tom Thibodeau sweep the season series against his former team. Gorgui Dieng added 10 points and 13 rebounds.Doug McDermott scored 16 points and made four 3-pointers for the Bulls, who were missing Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, Nikola Mirotic and Paul Zipser with injuries. The Bulls turned the ball over 18 times, were outrebounded 46-35 and were outscored 56-38 in the paint.

Hawks end road trip with 5th straight win- 5-1 over Oilers

EDMONTON—The Blackhawks can say they earned their week off.Richard Panik scored twice and set up another goal and the Blackhawks beat the Edmonton Oilers 5-1 on Saturday night for their fifth straight win.Patrick Kane had a goal and two assists and Trevor van Riemsdyk and Artem Anisimov also scored for the Blackhawks, who had lost three in a row before their recent run.

”It’s tough to win five games in a row on the road,” Joel Quenneville said. ”Our guys played a lot of hockey and our guys that went to the All-Star Game, they didn’t get much of a break as well. Hopefully everybody gets away and comes back refreshed and tries to recapture this feeling we have right now.”

Patrick Maroon scored for the Oilers, who have lost four of five.

”It was just mistakes that shouldn’t happen anymore at this point of the year,” Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl said. ”It was a frustrating loss for us.”

The Oilers were coming off of their own five-day break, but coach Todd McLellan didn’t see that as an excuse for their play.

”We didn’t have a lot of emotion,” he said. ”There wasn’t a single Blackhawk who was mad at an Oiler all night until the last two minutes. I was disappointed in the loss, the power play, the penalty kill but mostly in the emotional level of our team.”

Scott Darling made 30 saves. Cam Talbot started in goal for Edmonton and allowed four goals on 20 shots before being relieved by Laurent Brossoit.Edmonton started the scoring 4:01 into the opening period when Connor McDavid deftly stole a puck from defender Niklas Hjalmarsson and sent a backhand pass in front to Maroon, who beat Darling for his 19th goal of the season.The Blackhawks scored less than two minutes later when Panik walked in from the point to take a pass and blasted a shot past Talbot.The Blackhawks surged ahead midway through the first with a power-play goal as Kane was able to bank a shot off Talbot’s skate from behind the net during a scramble in front for his 19th of the year.The Hawks made it 3-1 before the nine-minute mark of the second period when Edmonton’s Oscar Klefbom had a chance to clear but instead put it right on van Riemsdyk’s stick, and he beat Talbot high to the glove side.The Hawks scored another power-play goal late in the second period, when Panik swatted in a rebound during another scramble for his 14th of the season.Brossoit came in to replace Talbot for the third.Anisimov battled hard in front of the net to add another goal, his 20th, with four minutes left in the third.

”It seemed like we got better and better over the last five games and it’s more of the team game that we’re going to need going forward,” Duncan Keith said. ”I think we’re starting to show some of our potential.”

NOTES—The Oilers were returning from their five-day break, while it was the last game for the Blackhawks before starting theirs. … It was the second of three meetings between the two teams this season. The Oilers won the previous game at home on Nov. 21, when Talbot recorded a shutout in a 5-0 victory….The Blackhawks are off until Feb. 18, when they host the same Oilers.

Listless Bulls lose to lowly Suns 115-97

Chicago Bulls Logo - Red bull with script above head

PHOENIX—Taj Gibson was sitting on a stool somewhat befuddled after the Bulls mostly aimless 115-97 loss to the Phoenix Suns. Sure, the game was disappointing, the Bulls essentially outplayed all game by the Western Conference’s worst team, one that hadn’t won at home in almost a month. But it was the Bulls curiously favorable place in the Eastern Conference, still seventh even as the Bulls lost in a second straight blowout on national TV to plunge to 26-28, that has Gibson perplexed and bemused.

“Awful, awful,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said in curt post game comments. “They outcompeted us in every category, every category tonight, rebounding, loose balls; transition 19-6. That tells you all you need to know.”

And yet as Gibson pondered the bleakness around him, Jimmy Butler unsure about whether he’ll play Sunday in Minnesota with ongoing heel problems, Dwyane Wade with two big bags of ice on his wrists after a brutal fall, Gibson shook his head about the state of the conference. The Hawks, Pacers, Pistons, Bucks and Knicks had lost again, and there were the Bulls stumbling home from this road trip, now 2-3 and still a game and a half ahead of falling out of the playoffs.

“If you look around you really can’t dwell because you have like nine other teams (in the East) doing the same things you are doing,” noted Gibson. “Just up and down, up and down, take two steps (forward,) take two steps back; that’s how everyone is going. It’s tough. Really tough. Just have to go with the punches; it’s part of the NBA, I guess.”

At least for now for the Bulls, and what doesn’t look like it’s changing any time soon.Butler led the Bulls with 20 points but on six of 16 shooting and Wade had 18 points on seven of 16 shooting. Robin Lopez had 12 points and seven rebounds and Gibson 10 points and six rebounds, and Doug McDermott 11 points off the bench, but just on four of six shooting.Though the significant numbers were the Bulls being outrebounded by a Suns team without center Alex Len suspended and Tyson Chandler out early in the game with a sprained ankle. Wide body reserve Alan Williams, who spent part of the season in the D-league after last season in China and has been a perennial Summer League All-Star, bounced Bulls all over the place with 14 points and 11 rebounds. The Suns guards shot by the generally out of position Bulls for the 19 fast break points and 50.5 percent shooting with 58 inside points. And even with their height and strength advantage inside, the Bulls kept firing up jump shots.

“Every team doesn’t do that,” Wade said firmly when asked about the Bulls inability to string together multiple wins and perhaps separate themselves from the bottom of the playoffs. “We (Miami) didn’t do that last year. We didn’t win that many games in a row like that. It doesn’t happen for every team. We’ve had a streak where we’ve won three a couple of times this year. No four or five. I’ve played on teams where we haven’t. It’s not about that. This one is behind us. We still have a chance to have a good trip; 3-3 is a good trip. We’re playing a team who beat us last time at our place (Minnesota Sunday). We have to go in there and take care of business and have a good trip.”

And it would look pretty good with a split, but it’s not happening the way the Bulls played Friday, and even beyond the obvious.

“A game like today if you look at it statistically, the thing that we gave up is how we lose games,” said Wade. “We turn the ball over a lot, give up a lot of transition points and not have a lot of ball movement. And we lose the rebounding war. Those are the things that don’t give us a chance to win.”

It was more so a lethargy on offense and defense. The Bulls repeatedly gave up wide open mid range shots as the Suns penetrated and pulled up off screens. The Bulls faded back into the paint instead of challenging shots. The floor balance was awful with shots going up and both Wade and Jerian Grant caught in corners or on the wings and not getting back in transition. The Suns basically packed the lane with three or four players as Butler had multiple shots blocked.Though that also seemed a function of his heel injury. Butler was uncertain right up to game time, and then he seemed to tweak it coming down after a driving bank shot late in the game. A few plays after that, Bledsoe rolled into Butler’s knee, knocking Butler to the floor. Butler stayed in the game, though not for long as Hoiberg soon cleared the bench with the Bulls trailing 104-87 with 4:20 left in the game.

Hawks at last beat Jets. Kane moves up latter some more

WINNIPEG—Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks finally beat the Winnipeg Jets.Kane and linemates Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin each scored and combined for seven points to help the Blackhawks beat the Jets 5-2 on Friday night. Winnipeg won the first four games between the teams this season, outscoring the Hawks 14-5.

”I think we had a great first. That’s the way we want to play right there,” Kane said. ”Every line was going, we had a couple good power plays. We didn’t score on them, but had some chances, got the lead and great period overall. That’s the way we want to play.”

Duncan Keith’s late goal was the winner, and Marian Hossa also scored.The goaltenders were busy in the fifth and final meeting of the season between the Central Division rivals.Corey Crawford made 28 saves in his 22nd victory of the season.

”I think, definitely, we played really good in our end,” Hossa said. ”Obviously, Corey stood on his head tonight, but I think overall we’re improving defensively which is a good sign.”

Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck stopped 31 of the 34 shots he faced.

”(Hellebuyck was) real good,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. ”Busy overall, for sure early which is tough. You’d love to see him ease into a game. It was lots of action to the net early in the game.”

Bryan Little and Adam Lowry scored for Winnipeg.

”I thought we had a bit of a slow start. I thought they came out hungry and controlled a lot of the play early in the game and got that goal right away,” Little said. ”I thought we did a good job in the second and the third battling back and getting our chances and making it a close game.”

Kane opened the scoring at 15:37 of the opening period with his 18th of the season, firing a one-timer off Panarin’s long cross-ice feed to beat Hellebuyck low to the glove side.The goal was Kane’s 269th, moving him past Tony Amonte for the most goals by an American in Blackhawks history, and into sixth on the overall franchise list.Little found the equalizer for Winnipeg at 1:43 of the second, quickly grabbing a net-side rebound off a Tobias Enstrom point shot.Anisimov scored late in the second. Kane set up Panarin for a one timer and Anisimov buried the rebound, moving him into a brief tie with Hossa for the team lead in goals at 19.Keith added his goal with less than three minutes remaining, scoring his fifth of the season on a point-blast to make it 3-1. Hossa moved back into the team goal lead with a short-handed empty-netter, and Panarin added another into an empty net to ice it with 16 seconds left.Blackhawks are at Edmonton on Saturday.

Hawks get first regular season win over Wild in two years.

ST. PAUL—Sure, no game is a must-win this time of year. Still, the Blackhawks couldn’t afford to slip much further behind the Minnesota Wild.Jonathan Toews scored a power-play goal 3:09 into overtime to lift the Blackhawks over the Western Conference-leading Wild 4-3 on Wednesday night.The Blackhawks closed within five points of Minnesota for the conference lead. The Wild also have two games in hand, and the Blackhawks admitted feeling a sense of urgency heading into the game.But, with Minnesota getting to Overtime, they got a point, and the Hawks only gained one rather than two on Division leading Minnesota.

”There was some added meaning to it, for our team anyways,” said Toews, who also had two assists.

Ryan Suter was called for holding midway through the overtime, and with the man advantage, Toews slipped a rebound between the skates of goalie Darcy Kuemper.

”It was a huge win,” Joel Quenneville said. ”We had to win the game to keep us within striking distance.”

Corey Crawford stopped 35 of 38 shots as the Blackhawks snapped an eight-game regular-season losing streak against Minnesota. He came up huge in the overtime, stonewalling Mikael Granlund alone in the slot and stopping Suter on a breakaway.

”We had the opportunities, but when they needed a save, they got it,” Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said. ”Usually when you don’t score on your great opportunities, bad things happen.”

The Wild salvaged a point when Erik Haula scored with 3:03 left in the third period to tie it at 3. Defenseman Marco Scandella carried the puck from behind his own blue line deep into the Hawk zone, then flipped a backhanded pass across the goalmouth, where Haula was waiting to tip it past Crawford.

”It was kind of a playoff game environment, a little bit,” Haula said.

Nino Niederreiter had two assists for the Wild, and Kuemper made 28 saves.Minnesota closed a four-game Canadian road trip on Tuesday night at Winnipeg, while the Blackhawks had been resting since a Feb. 4 game at Dallas. Perhaps feeling the effect of that late-night flight, the Wild looked sluggish early as the Hawks raced to a 2-0 lead.Ryan Hartman started the scoring at 10:54 of the first period when Vinnie Hinostroza carried the puck deep into the Minnesota zone and centered to the slot, where Hartman one-timed it past Kuemper.The Blackhawks doubled their lead 1:09 into the second period as Toews found Nick Schmaltz alone in front of the net for an easy tap-in.Minnesota got one back 37 seconds later when Jared Spurgeon finished a rush with a wrist shot over Crawford’s left shoulder.That goal energized the Wild, who outshot the Blackhawks 19-10 in the second period and dominated the next 15 minutes of play.Zach Parise tied it at 7:15 of the second on a disputed goal. Charlie Coyle threw the puck toward the net, and Parise, with his back to the goal, tipped it between his legs. Crawford made the save, but Parise spun around and chipped the rebound over the goalie.The Hawks challenged the play, arguing that Parise had been offside when Minnesota’s rush began. After a lengthy delay, the officials ruled the video evidence was inconclusive and the call stood.Late in the period, Panik put the Blackhawks on top 3-2 when he controlled a pass from Niklas Hjalmarsson and tucked the puck just inside the post.

”We got back to the way we want to play these road games right away early tonight, especially against this team,” said Toews, whose team is in the midst of a six-game road trip. ”Nice for us to find that resiliency and find a way to get a power-play goal at the end.”

NOTES—Wednesday’s game was the first of a franchise-record eight-game homestand for Minnesota. … The Wild recalled D Gustav Olofsson from Iowa of the AHL. He replaced D Mike Reilly, who was sent to Iowa. … Coyle played in his 284th consecutive game, breaking Antti Laaksonen’s franchise record. Laaksonen played for the Wild from 2000 to 2004…..Blackhawks road trip continues on Friday night at Winnipeg.

No Butler or Wade, no chance against Golden State for Bulls

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OAKLAND—Kevin Durant responded from his worst game since joining the Warriors with 22 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and three steals, and Golden State beat the Bulls 123-92 Wednesday night for a 138th straight regular-season game without consecutive defeats.Klay Thompson scored 28 points with six 3-pointers playing on his 27th birthday, Stephen Curry added 13 points and six rebounds and the Warriors had all five starters score in double figures for the fourth time.Golden State hasn’t lost consecutive regular-season games since April 5 and 7, 2015, at San Antonio and New Orleans, during its championship season.This was the Warriors’ eighth win following a loss this season and 17th in a row overall since those dates in `15.Robin Lopez had 17 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for the undermanned Bulls playing back in the Bay Area where he attended Stanford.Jimmy Butler with a bad heel and Dwyane Wade(under the weather)missed the game, leaving the Bulls no chance.

Illini upset short handed Wildcats 68-61

Northwestern Wildcats (1981 - Pres)Illinois Fighting Illini (2004 - 2013)

EVANSTON—With little but in-state pride at stake for Illinois, the scales seem poised Tuesday to lean towards a Northwestern team that finds itself in striking distance of several program milestones.Instead, the Fighting Illini grabbed their first road win of the season, pulling out a late 68-61 victory over the suddenly-stumbling Wildcats.Malcolm Hill led the way for Illinois (14-11, 4-8 Big Ten) with 14 points and nine rebounds, while Te’Jon Lucas, Maverick Morgan and Michael Finke each scored 11.Against a Wildcats defense that entered Tuesday allowing a Big Ten-best 38.7 field goal percentage, Illinois shot 45.3 percent, including 42.1 percent from behind the arc.

”What we’ve been missing was shot making,” Illinois coach John Groce said. ”Fortunately, tonight we were able to get that from a lot of different guys. When the ball goes in it always makes you look a little bit better.”

Bryant McIntosh paced Northwestern (18-6, 7-4) with 21 points, but he committed an uncharacteristic six turnovers while making just four assists. Vic Law had 16 points and nine rebounds, but no other Wildcat reached double figures.With Scottie Lindsey sidelined for the second straight game with illness, Northwestern shot a season-worst 33.9 percent from the field.

”I thought we played really hard, I thought our effort was great, I thought we did a lot of good things defensively,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. ”But I thought offensively we had some costly turnovers and bad shots. Down the stretch, we didn’t play smart basketball.”

The Wildcats remain two victories away from their most conference wins since 1932-33 – when they won 10 – and they need three wins to become the winningest team in program history.Most notable for Northwestern, though, is the potential breakthrough of reaching its first-ever NCAA Tournament – a pursuit that has now taken a hit with consecutive losses. Following six straight wins, the Wildcats fell Saturday to then-No. 23 Purdue 80-59.

”We have to keep our composure,” Wildcats center Dererk Pardon said. ”We know it’s a long season. We fix the things we need to fix, and we’ll be good.”

Tied at 28 at halftime Tuesday, no team enjoyed more than a six-point lead in the back-and-forth second half until the game’s final moments. Lucas scored a layup with 1:37 remaining to put Illinois ahead 63-61, and Finke added to the lead with a jumper at 1:09.Following Law’s go-ahead 3-pointer at 3:31, Northwestern missed its next three field goals and committed four turnovers.McIntosh’s four assists Tuesday moved the junior’s career total to 496, good for the top spot among active non-seniors. He passed Lehigh’s Kahron Ross, who has 495.Lindsey missed his second consecutive contest with mononucleosis, and the team is unsure when he will return. Lindsey leads Northwestern with 16.1 points per game, and the Wildcats have scored 52 and 61 points in his absence, two of their three lowest point totals this season.

”We’re going to have to figure it out,” Collins said. ”I don’t know how long Scottie’s going to be out. We have to keep playing. Everyone is dealing with some guys that are injured, some guys that are missing games. We have to figure it out.”

Despite yet another poor shooting performance from Hill – his third straight game under 40 percent – the senior continues to be a bright spot in trying times for the Fighting Illini. His efforts on Tuesday moved him into sole possession of 8th place on Illinois’ all-time scoring list with 1,665, passing Mark Smith and Brandon Paul.The Wildcats inch ever closer to their first NCAA Tournament berth, but their first back-to-back losses since Dec. 30 and Jan. 5 have derailed momentum. The upcoming schedule provides little relief, too, as Northwestern’s next two are against the Big Ten’s best – No. 7 Wisconsin and No. 21 Maryland.NU Travels to Wisconsin on Sunday.

ISU routs Drake, back on track.

DES MOINES—Paris Lee scored 26 points on 11-for-17 shooting, Keyshawn Evans scored 16 points and Illinois State drubbed Drake 82-53 on Tuesday night.Illinois State (20-5, 12-1 Missouri Valley) rebounded from Saturday’s 86-45 defeat against Wichita State and moved a half-game up of the Shockers (21-4, 11-1) for first place in the conference. Deontae Hawkins added 15 points for the Redbirds.ISU led 37-34 at halftime, and just after intermission, Ore Arogundade made a 3 to bring Drake within 42-41. But the Redbirds took control with a 16-4 run, with nine points coming from Lee, and never looked back.The Redbirds shot 69.2 percent (18 for 26) in the second half, including 4 for 8 from 3-point range. Drake (7-18, 5-8) shot 18.2 percent (6 for 33) from the floor and 3 for 15 from 3-point range.Billy Wampler scored 12 points and was the only player in double figures for the Bulldogs.

Wade scores last 7 points as Bulls escape near collapse in Sacramento

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SACRAMENTO—Dwyane Wade scored 31 points, including the final seven to help the Bulls hold off the Sacramento Kings 112-107 on Monday night.After the Bulls squandered a 27-point lead in the second half, Wade hit a tiebreaking 20-footer to put them ahead for good, 109-107, with 13 seconds left. Then he stole the inbounds pass following a timeout and went the length of the court for a dunk to make it a four-point lead.Wade added a free throw with a second to play following the second technical foul of the night on a furious DeMarcus Cousins, who thought he was fouled on a 3-point attempt. Cousins was ejected after picking up his 16th technical of the season, a total that triggers an automatic one-game suspension.Michael Carter-Williams had 21 points for the Bulls, and Robin Lopez scored 17. Jerian Grant added 13 points as the Bulls won their third in four games.Jimmy Butler missed his second straight game with a sore heel.