Men’s Basketball: Midway through nonconference play, Wildcats still growing


Sean Su/Daily Senior Staffer

Forward Vic Law, one of two freshmen starting for Northwestern, said youth is no longer an excuse for the Wildcats. “We have played enough basketball to know how the college game is and how the feel of the game goes,” he said.

Jesse Kramer, Reporter

In terms of winning percentage, Northwestern is off to a fine start with a 5-1 record. Only underneath that pretty record lays a team still identifying and then correct some shortcomings.

NU was exposed last Wednesday in a 61-42 loss to Northern Iowa at the Cancun Challenge. The Wildcats allowed the Panthers to go on a 17-0 run in the first half and never recovered.

“We learned we have to play a lot harder,” freshman forward Vic Law said. “They showed we have to tighten up a lot of things in our defense and our offense.”

NU will be tested again in December. The Cats face their first Power-5 opponents, Georgia Tech and Butler, this week. The team returns home for a string of cupcakes during the Winter Break as they make their final preparations for Big Ten competition.

The Cats will host Mississippi Valley State, Central Michigan, Western Michigan, UIC and Northern Kentucky before starting Big Ten play Dec. 30 at Rutgers. Western Michigan is the only of those opponents that ranks in’s top 150.

Coach Chris Collins said before the season he was satisfied with the strength of schedule because he wanted to ease his young into college basketball. The Cats start two freshmen, Law and point guard Bryant McIntosh, and they regularly bring two more off the bench.

Law said he thinks the newcomers have seen enough floor time through six games that they are adjusted to the college game and inexperience should not be an issue.

“You can’t really use youth as an excuse anymore,” Law said. “The youth on the team that plays has all played a significant amount over the six games. I think we should know the ups and downs of college now. We have played enough basketball to know how the college game is and how the feel of the game goes.”

McIntosh is leading the team with 34 minutes per game. That’s nearly five more than junior guard Tre Demps, who has the second-most amount of floor time.

Adjusting to the physicality of college basketball is tough for any player, but getting so many minutes has made McIntosh extra focused on taking care of his body.

“It’s a lot of ice baths, recovery boots,” McIntosh said. “Stay off your feet when you get an opportunity and rest.”

McIntosh has a lot of experience for a freshman, but he still sees lots of room for improvement before he plays his first Big Ten game.

“I have to get better defensively,” McIntosh said. “I think I made a big improvement in Cancun and did a much better job on ball screen defense.”

Not just the freshmen need some catching up before Big Ten play begins. Some of NU’s key upperclassmen also have problems to fix.

Seven-foot junior center Alex Olah is shooting a career-low 40.5 percent from the field, although his scoring, rebounding and shot blocking numbers have improved. Demps and senior guard JerShon Cobb are also posting the worst field-goal percentages of their respective careers.

Collins said for NU to be ready for Big Ten play, these veterans will need to break out of their funks.

“When the shot’s there, you have to take it with confidence,” Collins said. “You can’t think about the fact that maybe you haven’t shot well. We’ve just got to stay at it and keep working. We just haven’t had that one game yet where we put it all together.”

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