On a lazy Monday night in Evanston, Northwestern (2-0) came out on top of a relatively ugly 63-51 win over American (1-1). On a night characterized by missed open shots for both sides, Vic Law (26 points, 6 rebounds) and Dererk Pardon (13 points, 18 rebounds) carried the Wildcats.
“It’s one of those nights where we felt like there was a lid on the basket,” coach Chris Collins said.
However, after trailing for much of the first half, Northwestern was able to squeeze out a win by doing a better job of defending the three pointer and limiting turnovers in the second half.
“Some days shots aren’t gonna fall, but you gotta tip your hat to the defense,” Pardon said. “We did a good job in the second half of slowing down and gutting the game out.”
The first few possessions of the game were a false signal of what was to come. American’s Larry Motuzis knocked down a three on their first possession, and Vic Law subsequently one-upped him with a four-point play that put the Wildcats up 4-3 in the first minute. The game immediately slowed down, with a 7-7 score at the first media timeout with 15:51 remaining in the half.
Law, for his part, remained Northwestern’s go-to offensive weapon throughout the night. Law shot 9-19 (47 percent) on the night, while the rest of the team shot a combined 12-39 (31 percent).
“I was rolling and getting some really good looks,” Law said.
American capitalized on Northwestern’s one-dimensional offense and jumped out to a 17-13 lead behind a barrage of three-pointers, ultimately sinking five in the half. Towards the end of the half, the ‘Cats staged a gradual comeback, featuring Ryan Greer’s first points in purple to knot the game at 22 and a Ryan Taylor three to put NU up 31-30. Despite committing 11 team fouls to put American in the bonus with over five minutes remaining, Northwestern managed to build a 38-31 lead going into the half.
In the second half, American staged a comeback of their own, tying the game at 45 apiece behind six quick points from center Mark Gasperini. After that, the Wildcats began to pull away by stifling the American offense. Northwestern held American to just 8-27 shooting in the second half, including 1-9 from beyond the arc. Key to the defensive effort was holding Sa’eed Nelson, American’s star guard, to 3-14 from the floor.Mp>“If we could do a good job on Nelson and take away the three-point shooters, we felt like we’d have a good shot,” said Collins.
Northwestern forced 16 turnovers, including 10 in the second half.
An A.J. Turner three-pointer with seven minutes remaining bookended by a pair of dunks from Pardon were the highlight-reel moments towards the end of the second half as the ‘Cats cruised to victory. The second- half performance still left much to be desired: Northwestern shot 1-11 from deep, and missed four of ten free throws.
Northwestern will look to continue their winning ways on Friday when they host Binghamton (1-2). The popular ESPN show Pardon the Interruption, hosted by Northwestern alum Michael Wilbon and Binghamton alum Tony Kornheiser, will be broadcasted live at Welsh-Ryan arena at 3:15 p.m. prior to a 6 p.m. tip-off.