PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — After sitting out a game with a knee injury and spending most of the night shaking off the rust, senior Vic Law delivered for Northwestern with the game on the line against Rutgers.
Law shook off a dismal shooting night to hit a go-ahead drive with 4:25 to play and Northwestern held off Rutgers 65-57 on Friday night after twice blowing 10-point seconds-half leads.
"When your team needs you to win, you have to take the shots and shoot them with confidence," said Law, who was 2 of 10 from the field and finished with six points, 11 below his average. "It doesn't matter if I am 0-for-13 or 13-for-13, whenever my team needs me, I will try to step up."
Northwestern coach Chris Collins said that Law was a question mark for the game after sitting out a loss to No. 2 Michigan on Sunday.
"I was just really proud that he was out there," Collins said. "He was really struggling after our Iowa game and was unable to play at Michigan. His knee has really flared up on him and we weren't sure he was going to be ready to play. He hasn't practiced at all. He came in yesterday, got his hair cut and said: 'I'm going tomorrow.'"
The Wildcats (11-7, 2-5) had other players step up, too.
Ryan Taylor scored 14 points and hit two crucial 3-pointers after Law's basket and Dererk Pardon had 17 points as Northwestern snapped a two-game losing streak and won for the second time in five games.
Montez Mathis had 16 points to lead Rutgers (8-9, 1-6), which has lost three straight after knocking off then-No. 16 Ohio State. Geo Baker added 12 for the Scarlet Knights, who were 15 of 25 from the foul line.
"They made their free throws; we didn't," Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said. "I thought we took a good punch from them, but kept on bouncing back and couldn't finish up with timely baskets or made free throws. But we're close, and I liked the way we fought today. That's a team I like to coach. They were gritty and they were tough."
Northwestern opened leads of 37-27 and 47-37 in the second half, only to see Rutgers eventually tie the game at 49 on a scoop shot in the lane by Mathis with 5:58 to play. Mathis had a chance for a three-point play but missed the free throw.
After a couple empty possessions by both teams, Law drove the lane and hit only his second basket for a 51-49 lead. Rutgers had a chance to tie the contest with 3:57 to go, but center Shaq Doorson missed the first of two free throws.
Taylor then took over sandwiching his two big 3-pointers around two free throws by Pardon to open a 59-52 lead.
"We knew this was an emergency win," said Law, who also hit two free throws in the final minute. "Every game going forward is an emergency win. I think going forward we have to play with more urgency than we have in the past."
Northwestern: A much-needed win for Wildcats against a traditionally weak opponent. Also avenged an overtime loss here last year
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights are headed for another last-place finish in the conference unless they turn things around.
Northwestern banked in two 3-pointers, the first by Pete Nance in the first half and the second by Anthony Gaines in the second.
CLOSE TO A TECHNICAL
The officials were not happy when Rutgers replayed a non-foul call against Baker four times. Baker was hit on the arm on his drive to the hoop with just under 10 minutes to play, and fans become irate when Miller Kopp hit a 3-pointer to stretch the Wildcats' lead to 47-37. Referee Earl Watson went to the scorer's table after the third replay and said something to a man sitting in front of the official's replay screen. Of course, another replay came on the big screen.
Northwestern hosts No. 25 Indiana on Tuesday night
Rutgers hosts Nebraska on Monday night.
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