Men’s Basketball: Taphorn shines as Wildcats shut down New Orleans


Daily file photo by Zack Laurence

Nathan Taphorn attempts a layup between two defenders. The senior forward scored a career-best 18 points against New Orleans.

Aidan Markey, Reporter

Men’s Basketball

Following a week-long exam break, Northwestern suffocated New Orleans from start to finish Sunday en route to an 83-49 victory.

The Wildcats (7-2) held the Privateers (4-4) to just under 37 percent shooting from the field and 25 percent from beyond the arc, while also forcing their opponent from the Southland Conference into 21 turnovers.

“Defense was the key tonight — the way we guarded in the first half, especially,” coach Chris Collins said. “I thought we took them out of the things they wanted to do, we turned them over. So, even though we got off to a slow start offensively, they weren’t scoring.”

Despite NU’s slow start, the team built a commanding lead as the first half progressed and entered the break leading by 21.

After halftime, the Cats complemented their defensive intensity with a stronger offensive attack. Holding a comfortable lead, NU played a balanced and efficient second half, assisting on 10 of its 12 field goals in the period.

Leading the onslaught was senior forward Nathan Taphorn, who had a career-best 18 points off the bench on 7-of-11 shooting and buried a trio of 3s. Entering the contest averaging just 5.2 points per game, Taphorn broke his previous career high of 16 points, which he set as a sophomore.

“(I’m) giving credit to my teammates,” Taphorn said of his noteworthy night. “They’ve been staying on me to play within myself and to get after it.”

The Cats received an offensive spark from other bench players as well. Including Taphorn, the group had 41 of the team’s 83 points. Junior forward Gavin Skelly had 14 points and nine rebounds off the bench, and freshman guard Isiah Brown added 9 points and three assists.

Taphorn also did his part in helping the Cats power through sophomore center Dererk Pardon’s injury, adding six rebounds to complement his scoring production. His presence as a deep threat further helped NU by stretching out New Orleans’ defense, opening up opportunities for others.

“(Taphorn) did an excellent job, especially in the first half, coming in and busting up the middle of their zone,” junior guard Bryant McIntosh said. “We were able to get it to him a couple of times, and his turnaround jumper from about 17 feet is money.”

Taphorn’s size and ability to break down the zone defense contributed heavily to his frequent scoring throughout Sunday’s contest. After making a few baskets early on, the forward dazzled with a one-handed tip dunk, as well as an in-rhythm transition 3-pointer in the second half.

Collins said that although the senior’s performance was impressive, it came as no surprise to him and the rest of the team.

“We’ve always believed that (Taphorn) can do that,” Collins said. “He’s a talented guy.”

The Cats now enter a stretch in which they play four games in nine days before they begin their Big Ten campaign with a road contest against Penn State on Dec. 27.

And while a somewhat daunting stretch is on the horizon, Collins said the commanding win over New Orleans is encouraging for NU.

“I was really proud of my team tonight,” Collins said.

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