Behind a strong second half performance and three 20-point efforts from Joseph Cooper, Isaiah Gaines and Ethan Pickett, Northwest earned a massive victory on the home floor against 10th-ranked and previously unbeaten Jones College, 87-83.
Northwest trailed by as many as 14 points in the second half, but outscored the Bobcats 37-19 over the final 13 minutes of regulation, sealing the Rangers' first regular season victory against a ranked opponent since a 69-64 win against then-No. 25 Holmes on February 8, 2018. The result also marked coach Shane Oakley's second win against a ranked opponent, following an 81-66 victory against No. 18 Northeast in the 2020 Region 23 Tournament.
With the win, Northwest improved to 9-2 on the season and 2-1 in conference competition. The Bobcats dropped to 10-1 on the year and 2-1 in the MACCC.
Northwest got the upper hand early in the contest, as a pair of layups from Isaiah Gaines and one from Jaylon Sanders propelled the Rangers to a quick 6-0 lead two minutes into the game. Northwest maintained the lead for roughly 15 minutes of the first half, including a 10-point lead with 10:36 left to go.
Jones College began clawing away at the lead over the final 10 minutes of the half, as the Bobcats went on a 14-3 run over a five-minute span to take a 28-27 lead. The Bobcats would wind up closing the half with 19 more points, sparked mostly by four consecutive three-pointers from Ashton Campbell, sending Northwest to the locker room in a 47-41 deficit.
London Taylor opened the second half with a three-pointer to pull the Rangers within three, only for the Bobcats to answer with an 8-0 run that made it a 55-44 lead. From there, Jones College kept its lead to eight points or more, culminating with back-to-back three-pointers from Campbell and Calvin Temple that gave the Bobcats the 14-point advantage with 13:43 to go.
From there, the Rangers came alive with a 9-0 run of its own, led by a seven-point scoring burst from Pickett. The run helped Northwest pull within five, 64-59, only for Caleb McGill to drain a three for the Bobcats, breaking the scoring drought and pushing the lead back to eight.
However, Pickett continued to lead the charge down the stretch after being held to just four first half points. The Canton, Ga. product answered the Bobcats' three with an emphatic fastbreak dunk, followed by three made free throws and a layup from Gaines, bringing the Rangers back within three, 69-66, with 9:30 left to go.
McGill and Temple would connect on a pair of layups, only to be answered by a Quen Kyles layup and a jumper from Cooper, keeping the Rangers within striking distance. With 6:04 remaining, Cooper's second jumper finally gave Northwest its first lead since the first half, 74-73.
Foul trouble soon began to take its toll on the Bobcats, as Campbell and Jabari Bowman picked up their fifth fouls within minutes of each other and more than five minutes still left on the clock. Northwest took advantage of the situation, swelling its lead to five points, 82-77, off a layup from Pickett with 1:55 remaining.
A six-point swing mostly off free throws helped Jones College to a one-point 83-82 lead with 20 seconds left, only for Cooper to respond on the other end of the floor with a quick three-pointer. The Bobcats looked to Temple to cut the lead back to one, but the layup was missed and rebounded by Pickett, who drained the final two free throws to seal the victory for Northwest.
Gaines finished with his third career double-double, leading the Rangers with a career-high 24 points and 13 rebounds, while also adding five assists and five blocks. Pickett also finished with a new career-high of 20 points and seven rebounds, while Cooper scored 23 on the evening.
Northwest shot 47 percent from the floor and 35 percent from three-point range, compared to a 40 percent shooting effort from Jones College. The Bobcats also finished 8-of-28 from beyond the arc, with six of those threes coming from Campbell.
Campbell finished as the Bobcats' leading scorer with 26 points before fouling out, while Decorian Peyton finished with a 18-point, 16-rebound double-double. Temple and McGill also finished in double figures for Jones College, scoring 18 and 11 points, respectively.
Northwest will hit the road on Monday, January 10 for a 6 P.M. tipoff at Mississippi Delta. The Rangers lead the all-time series 84-40, with the last meeting coming in a non-conference battle on November 18, when Northwest earned an 80-57 victory at Howard Coliseum.