Jan. 18—TOPEKA, Kan. — In the aftermath of a shot clock violation in which sophomore Luke Waters passed up a corner 3-pointer, and junior Trevor Hudgins was left with an off-the-mark toss-up, a media timeout arrived at Lee Arena.
Hudgins pleaded for his starting forward to shoot. Northwest head coach Ben McCollum, with his team only up four against rival Washburn on Monday, echoed the sentiment.
The next possession saw Waters respond with a buried 3-pointer, and the lead was ballooned to 14 three minutes later en route to a 71-63 victory, the 14-straight win for Northwest.
"It's huge. He can shoot the ball," Hudgins said. "We just want him to play. He's a great player. It was a big spark. Him having that confidence to shoot gives us the confidence to pass to him, to get the offense going. That's what led us to the lead we had."
The biggest stretch during the run saw Hudgins make back-to-back 3-pointers in a 30-second span, bringing him to 19 points and forcing a Washburn timeout.
Hudgins finished with 26 points, five assists and two steals. That came after just 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting in the first half.
"They're gonna try to get in close on me and have hands on me, and I like it," Hudgins said. "It's one of the best teams to go against. I'm just a competitor. They're just really physical, and we played through it."
Northwest (16-1, 9-0 MIAA) jumped out to a 10-4 lead behind an early spark from junior Diego Bernard, who then went to the bench for much of the half with two fouls.
A Washburn (10-7, 7-4) run saw the Ichabods take a five-point lead midway through the half on a layin that was a foul away from being a poster dunk, with the free throw pushing the Ichabods ahead 19-14.
Sophomore Wes Dreamer turned in two 3-pointers to spark Northwest to a 34-30 halftime edge. Both teams shot just 38% in the opening half, with Northwest made just 4 of 16 3-pointers.
"I think the way they defend makes it tough for us," McCollum said. "They're super physical and really attack the ball when you drive, so you've gotta understand what you're supposed to do when you're away. We did a good enough job of dictating the game."
An 11-point lead was trimmed to four with 14 minutes to play before Waters' shot. Northwest would lead by at least five the rest of the way as the backcourt duo of Tyler Geiman and Jalen Lewis was held to 19 total points. Geiman scored 14 points on 14 shots while Lewis was kept to just two shot attempts and five points, and the Bearcats gave a nod to the defensive prowess of freshman Isaiah Jackson.
"He can guard basically everybody in the league, and we have faith in him," Hudgins said. "He could play 40 minutes of just defense and be happy, that's just the kind of guy he is. That's what we need on our team. We just need guys that aren't afraid to get dirty."
Dreamer finished with 18 points and nine rebounds. Waters and freshman Byron Alexander chipped in seven each off the bench, while Bernard added nine.
Connor Deffebaugh led the Ichabods with 17 points.
The victory sets up a Thursday night showdown between the top two teams and offenses in the MIAA as Northwest travels to Central Oklahoma (15-2, 10-1).
"They were good last year. I'm guessing they're good this year, not just because of their record," Hudgins said. "We're just gonna try to impose our will, go down there and compete."
Washburn women 58,
The Bearcats suffered a third-straight loss after two three-point defeats to top-25 foes over the weekend, falling 58-52 on Monday at Lee Arena.
Northwest (11-5, 6-4) shot just 32.7% for the game and made 4 of 24 3-pointers.
"I think at the end of the day we still got some shots," head coach Austin Meyer said. "We only turned it over seven times in the game, had 10 offensive rebounds; just couldn't score."
The Bearcats trailed 26-20 at the half before a 10-0 run fueled a 37-35 through three quarters. But Washburn (6-9, 4-5) responded with a 9-0 run to open the fourth.
Northwest cut an eight-point deficit to one twice in the final two minutes.
Freshman Kelsey Fields led Northwest off the bench with 10 points and 14 rebounds.
"Even though we've lost 3 in a row now, we just have to keep a mindset of playing hard every day, getting better in practice every day," Fields said.
Freshman Peyton Kelderman added 10 points, and Evelyn Vazquez finished with eight off the bench.
Brandon Zenner can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowZenner.