Men’s Basketball: Pardon makes presence felt quickly after 8-game absence
January 10, 2017
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In his first offensive possession after eight games on the sideline, sophomore center Dererk Pardon was poised for an easy basket at the rim.
Instead, he fumbled away the pass from junior guard Bryant McIntosh for a turnover. For the rest of the first half in Northwestern’s (13-4, 2-2 Big Ten) 70-66 Jan. 5 loss to Minnesota, Pardon’s timing seemed a little off, and he went into halftime of that game with just one point.
Since then, Pardon has shown essentially no ill effects from the right hand injury he suffered in November. He’s provided a robust inside presence for the Wildcats in their last two games, one that should serve them well as they enter the heart of the Big Ten schedule.
“I felt great. I was a little excited,” Pardon said after the game against the Golden Gophers. “It’s just good to get the rust off.”
Pardon was one of the few bright spots for NU on the offensive end in the second half of that defeat to Minnesota, as he hit 4-of-6 shots from the field to end the game with 9 points and eight rebounds.
After the game, coach Chris Collins said his big man’s performance after a lengthy layoff was encouraging.
“For him to come out after not playing, I thought he made some great moves in the post; he gave us great energy,” Collins said. “That was a big bonus and a big positive.”
Then, with his team muddling through a two-game losing streak as it traveled to Nebraska on Sunday, Pardon went 6-for-8 from the field to notch a 13-point showing in Lincoln. He filled up the box score, tying for the team lead with five rebounds and registering a block and a steal and also flashed the ability to create his own shot in the post, giving the Cats another weapon offensively as it pulled out a 74-66 win.
On the defensive end, Pardon has served as a deterrent at the rim without fouling, combining for just two fouls over the pair of contests. Without foul trouble to hold him back, the center saw 32 minutes against both the Golden Gophers and Cornhuskers, and Collins said he had no qualms about giving Pardon big minutes right from his return.
“When you have a hand injury, you can still run,” Collins said after the game against Minnesota. “He’s stayed in shape … I was under no restrictions. I was just going to play him. He was back.”
Pardon certainly seems to be back in every sense of the word, and his strong play has allowed the Cats to move raw freshman center Barret Benson, who has played just two minutes in the previous two games, to the bench. NU has also rolled out Pardon alongside junior forward Gavin Skelly up front in large doses, and the Cats could use that bigger lineup to help contain Rutgers (11-6, 0-4) on the glass Thursday. The Scarlet Knights currently sit in the top 20 in rebounding margin nationally.
After a rough first half back on the court, Pardon has found his rhythm and looks ready to do the hard work inside as NU moves through the Big Ten. He won’t steal headlines from players like McIntosh or junior guard Scottie Lindsey, but as he showed against Nebraska, his physical play in the paint could give the Cats the edge they need to win big this season.
“I felt like I was 100 percent out there,” Pardon said after the victory in Lincoln. “I just played my game and helped my team win.”