Men’s Basketball: Pressure grows as Vic Law, Northwestern prepare for Michigan


Daily file photo by Rachel Dubner

Vic Law looks for a teammate along the baseline. The sophomore forward will look to snap his slump against Michigan on Wednesday.

Ben Pope, Reporter

Men’s Basketball

Vic Law pulled away, reluctantly, from the first drill of practice to speak to the media Tuesday. Before completing his first thought, he stepped away to pick up a loose ball and toss it back to junior guard Bryant McIntosh.

With two crucial games left in the regular season and Law mired in a drastic multi-week shooting slump, the sophomore forward seemed hardly interested in talking to reporters.

“I’ve just been off-balance on my shots,” Law said. “Even when I’m open, I’m taking shots and I’m just leaning a little bit to the left or right, and that’s obviously going to make it harder for anyone to shoot. I just need to focus in on my fundamentals.”

Far removed from the blissful days when it stood 7-2 in the conference and appeared to be cruising toward an NCAA Tournament berth, Northwestern (20-9, 9-7 Big Ten) has lost five of seven and now must win one of this week’s two games — starting Wednesday against Michigan (19-10, 9-7) — to solidify its resume.

Law, who has made only 17-of-75 shots (22.7 percent) in his last eight outings, said he feels he personally could make the difference.

“What will really help us win is if I can get out of this slump here,” Law said. “It’s my time to finally turn things around. If we can add my shooting back into the mix, offensively we’ll start clicking again.”

Even on defense, Law will have his hands full against the Wolverines. Coach Chris Collins said he’s expecting Law to spend a lot of time guarding Derrick Walton, the leading scorer on a surging Michigan team that has won five of its last six games and boasts the second-best 3-point shooting percentage in the Big Ten.

“They can shoot from all five positions, even their big guys,” Collins said. “They can hit 3s, they spread you out, they’ve got one of the best point guards in the conference in Derrick Walton … and they feel a sense of urgency just like we do.”

Both teams are searching for a 10th conference win that would guarantee a winning Big Ten record and most likely secure a berth into the NCAA Tournament.

But that’s where the comparisons end. The Wolverines have been in the field five of the last six seasons; the Wildcats never have in the tournament’s 78-year history. The Wolverines just earned their 9th conference win by upsetting Purdue on Saturday; the Wildcats have already squandered two chances already to get their 10th by losing to Illinois and Indiana.

“I’m frustrated because we’re losing. I’m really competitive, so when we lose, it beats on me a little bit,” McIntosh said. “We need some of these guys to step up and help the starters out. We need a little bit more from our bench, so we don’t have to rely on our starters playing 30-plus minutes.”

Collins admitted his team is feeling the pressure but said he personally is not, adding that “all it does is waste energy if I’m looking at all the bracketology.”

Instead, he said he’s searching for tactics to improve NU’s offense, including potentially using Law in the post to give him shooting opportunities closer to the basket. One way or another, the team will almost certainly need to snap its eight-game streak of failing to score 70 points to keep up with Michigan in front of a sold-out Welsh-Ryan Arena crowd.

“It’s not going to be about the pressure. It’s not going to be about any of that,” Collins said. “It’s going to be: Can we go out there and can we execute and can we beat a good team for 40 minutes? Because that’s what it’s going to take.”

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