Men’s Basketball: Despite win, Cats still plagued by early-season sloppy play


Daily file photo by David Lee

Dererk Pardon posts up a defender. The junior center and the Wildcats had 17 turnovers in their win over St. Peter’s on Monday.

Ben Pope, Reporter

Men’s Basketball

ROSEMONT — Northwestern’s record in the young 2017-18 season is a flawless 2-0, but its play on the floor has been anything but.

The Wildcats turned the ball over 15 times in last Friday’s nerve-racking victory over Loyola Maryland, then one-upped — or, rather, two-upped — themselves with 17 turnovers in Monday’s 75-66 win over St. Peter’s.

After Monday’s game, coach Chris Collins highlighted turnovers as an area of particular concern.

“We really pride ourselves on taking care of the ball, and if you’ve looked at us over the past couple years, our assist-to-turnover ratio has been one of the better ones out there,” Collins said. “We’ve had two games now where we’ve been in the negative turnovers-to-assists, and that’s not a good recipe for us.”

Indeed, last year, NU ranked 16th out of 351 teams nationwide with a 1.41 assist-to-turnover ratio — and even that was a step down from the prior season, when Collins’ team ranked 5th with a 1.60 ratio.

This year, with just 80 minutes of basketball played, that ratio stands at a brutal 0.88, with 28 total assists to 32 turnovers.

“It kind of falls on me. I need to stop trying to make the spectacular pass and just make simple plays,” senior guard Bryant McIntosh said. “It’s also just early in the season.”

McIntosh does have six turnovers in his two outings — slightly above his 2.67 turnover-per-game average from 2016-17 — but the problem largely hasn’t originated with him.

Thanks to a whopping three traveling calls in Monday’s first half alone, junior center Dererk Pardon already has eight giveaways, despite virtually never handling the ball outside the paint. Freshman guard Anthony Gaines, has committed six turnovers in his mere 27 minutes of floor time. Likewise, sophomore center Barret Benson has three in his 13 minutes.

The Cats do have two reasons for optimism: a two-game sample size is hardly worth an overreaction, and both Loyola Maryland and St. Peter’s ranked among the top 50 teams last season in turnovers forced. By comparison, Wednesday’s far more imposing opponent, Creighton, ranked 130th in that regard.

But Collins nonetheless admitted that his team won’t be able to continue scraping out ugly wins if the sloppy play persists.

“We’re a good team, and we can be a very good team, but we don’t necessarily have the kind of firepower to withstand 17 to 20 turnovers,” the coach said. “It’s something that we’re really going to have to clean up as we move forward.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @benpope111