EVANSTON, Ill. (AP)Hartford coach John Gallagher said his team finally has come together. Players have returned healthy – just in time for a victory against a Big Ten team.
Malik Ellison scored 16 points and Hunter Marks hit a jumper with 1.4 seconds left and blocked the final shot attempt as Hartford beat Northwestern 67-66 on Sunday.
Miroslav Stafl added 15 points and Marks had 10 for the Hawks’ third straight win.
”This is the first time we have all 14 players on our roster,” Gallagher said. ”We’re 7-7. Realistically, we gave away four games, so we’re really a nine- or 10-win team right now, but that’s not the record.”
Miller Kopp led Northwestern with 24 points, including 17 after halftime. Ryan Young and Boo Buie each had 14 for the Wildcats, one of the youngest teams in the country.
Northwestern inbounded the ball up the court to Young before Marks blocked his final 3 attempt.
Hartford (7-7) shot 56% from the field compared to Northwestern’s 37% in the teams’ first meeting.
”Difficult loss, we’ve got to learn from it,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. ”It doesn’t feel good for anybody. We have to get better in a lot of areas as we get back into the league.”
The Hawks went 7 for 20 from 3-point range while Northwestern (5-7) was 6 for 22 from beyond the arc in its non-conference finale.
”We’re a team that’s very different than a month ago. We have way different pieces,” Gallagher said. ”We feel like we can win this game with the roster we have with Malik Ellison and Traci Carter being two fifth-year guys that have played at the highest level. Our young kids are really playing, and they have no fear. I’m excited about January and February.”
Buie shot 5 for 14 after he averaged 25.5 points on 62% shooting in Northwestern’s last two games.
The Wildcats have lost four of five.
Northwestern went on an 8-2 run to start to pull away in the final minutes. Layups from Stafl and Marks pushed Hartford within a point with 52.1 seconds left.
After a Northwestern turnover, Marks scored in the paint to give Hartford the lead for good.
”Two misdirection plays we ran we hadn’t used all game – we kind of saved them,” Gallagher said. ”Fortunate.”
Hartford led 37-31 at halftime after shooting 60.9% from the field to Northwestern’s 35.7%. The Wildcats went on a 13-3 run before Hartford responded with an 18-6 run capped by D.J. Mitchell’s four-point play.
Marks, who is from Philip Island, Australia, credited Hartford’s preparation.
”We came in a day earlier than we usually would and threw in an extra practice,” he said. ”It was good.”
Hartford improves to 2-5 all-time against Big Ten teams. The Hawks are 0-3 against Penn State and 1-2 against Rutgers.
Northwestern is showing its inexperience. The Wildcats – the youngest team in the Big Ten – ends the non-conference schedule on a low note.
HE SAID IT
Northwestern trailed by as much as seven in its first game since the holiday break.
”There’s no question, their energy in the first half was higher than ours,” Collins said. ”To our guys’ credit, in the second half, we played really hard.”
Anthony Gaines, a junior guard, missed his second consecutive game for Northwestern due to a shoulder injury. .A.J. Turner (leg) exited in the second half.
Hartford plays its non-conference finale Tuesday at Bowling Green.
Northwestern visits Minnesota on Jan. 5.
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