NU solid in exhibition win (Men’s Basketball)

Jim Martinho

Jitim Young slammed home a tomahawk dunk, Mohamed Hachad dished out several flashy behind-the-back passes and freshman Vince Scott turned in an impressive performance. But perhaps most importantly, the Northwestern men’s basketball team made it through its second and final exhibition game, an 80-66 win over the CAPS Basketball Academy All-Stars, with a mostly healthy roster.

In NU’s second exhibition game last season, forward Vedran Vukusic re-injured his shoulder going for a rebound and missed the entire season. The Cats suffered a similar scare early in the second half Wednesday when sophomore guard T.J. Parker collapsed to the floor and clutched his left leg.

Parker writhed in pain on the Welsh-Ryan Arena floor for a few tense moments, but walked off the court under his own power. Carmody said the injury was a just a sprain, and it didn’t appear to be serious.

Young led the Wildcats with 22 points and seven rebounds, Scott added 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting and hit all three of his attempts from beyond the arc.

The CAPS All-Stars started two former NU players — Jason Burke, who graduated last year, and 2002 grad Tavaras Hardy. Neither player made much of an impact against his former team, as Hardy contributed four points and Burke got in the books with a late free throw.

NU trailed 37-34 at the half after the All-Stars made 7-of-15 three-pointers, including three from Joel Bullock. But the hot hands cooled in the second half as the Cats’ defense tightened up. Vukusic in particular looked tentative at times on the defensive end in just his second game in a year, but scored 14 points.

“He’s a little rusty,” coach Bill Carmody said. “I’m not even thinking of him as a question mark, although I did take him out for the last four minutes. I wanted him to be healthy for the first real game — I don’t care if we lose this game.”

Scott played 20 minutes and looked more comfortable than in NU’s first exhibition game Nov. 4. He added four blocks and three assists, and committed just one turnover and one personal foul. But the 6-foot-10 Scott didn’t pull down a single rebound as the Cats lost the battle of the boards, 38-33.

“There’s pressure to step it up on the boards because we’re kind of low on big men,” Scott said. “I have to make an immediate impact because our team is pretty small.”

Hachad showed improvement over his freshman year, when he struggled with turnovers as he learned Carmody’s complicated Princeton offense. But against CAPS Hachad looked much more in control, especially when running the fast break in the second half.

Hachad had a little fun as well, setting up open looks with three behind-the-back passes in the second half

“He usually makes the right play on the break,” Carmody said. “And he threw the most behind-the-back passes I’ve seen since Pistol Pete (Maravich). But every one of them was soft and on the money.”

Young joked before the game that he wanted to win to show NU alums Hardy and Burke that Welsh-Ryan was his “house.”

“He can talk trash if he wants,” Hardy said. “He still has to go to practice every day — we’re out there working real jobs and getting paid.”