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Men’s Basketball: NU opens new Welsh-Ryan with emphatic exhibition victory

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Men’s Basketball: NU opens new Welsh-Ryan with emphatic exhibition victory

Anthony Gaines slams home a dunk. The sophomore guard scored 10 points in Friday's game.

Anthony Gaines slams home a dunk. The sophomore guard scored 10 points in Friday's game.

Allie Goulding/Daily Senior Staffer

Anthony Gaines slams home a dunk. The sophomore guard scored 10 points in Friday's game.

Allie Goulding/Daily Senior Staffer

Allie Goulding/Daily Senior Staffer

Anthony Gaines slams home a dunk. The sophomore guard scored 10 points in Friday's game.

Charlie Goldsmith, Sports Social Media Editor

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The first time Northwestern scored in the new arena was a post-up play designed for senior center Dererk Pardon, and he finished an and-one layup.

The first time the Wildcats made the crowd explode was a do-it-yourself slam dunk by freshman forward Pete Nance, who stole the ball at the top of the key and raced past three defenders to the rim.

A new-look group in a new-look arena saw almost every player live up to his preseason expectation in an 83-44 exhibition win over McKendree.

Even though coach Chris Collins cycled through different lineups and featured four different players as the primary ball-handler, he said the team is in a good place implementing the new schemes he’s put in on both ends.

“We’re trying to play a style where we can take advantage of our length and our aggressiveness defensively and try to depend on cutting and play a motion-type offense that plays to our strengths,” Collins said. “I don’t want guys to get caught up in who starts and who’s coming off the bench. It’s more about how do the pieces fit, who plays well together and let’s make sure we always have a team on the court that can be competitive.”

According to Collins, NU’s biggest strengths heading into the season were their length and versatility on both ends, and all ten participating players had a moment that highlighted what Collins was talking about.

Nance impressed with his dunk, four steals and 12 points, freshman forward Miller Kopp played competitive defense in a surprise starting appearance and senior forward Vic Law finished 6-11 from the field in 19 minutes. Law fired more field goal attempts than he did in all but five games last season, and he was aggressive coming off screens looking for three-point shots.

After tying the score at 11 six minutes into the first half, NU went on an 11-0 run and extended the lead to 16 by halftime. A bench unit consisting of Nance, freshman guard Ryan Greer, sophomore guard Anthony Gaines, junior forward A.J. Turner and senior center Barret Benson played with a faster tempo than the starters did at first and increased the lead in the middle of the first half.

After the break, the Cats held the Bearcats to 19 points on 24 percent shooting and forced ten turnovers. Law said the team has been effectively picking up Collins’ new aggressive system that allows the team to utilize their length on offense and defense.

“Our offense did a good job of keeping them moving, keeping the floor spaced,” Law said. “The new system looks good. Defensively, whenever you hold someone to 44 points and [24] percent shooting from the floor, it’s a good game. I think our pieces are coming together.”

After a game where Collins played all ten active players 15 or more minutes, he said he’s stressing how starting positions matter less on this team than some of the past. For example, Taylor and Turner each were able to be featured extensively as playmakers on their respective units over the course of the game and finished with 12 and 8 points respectively.

Collins said that the three freshman he played were able to execute their role on the team, through the fourth, center Ryan Young, will be redshirting the season.

Heading into Thursday’s season opener against New Orleans, Collins said this team has the pieces to outperform the expectations most put on them in the preseason.

“You guys might think I’m crazy, but why can’t we be really good?” Collins said. “You throw lineups out there that have Anthony Gaines and Vic Law and A.J. Turner and Pete Nance and Miller Kopp, we have size, we length and we have guys who all commit themselves on that end of the floor.”

Email: charliegoldsmith2021@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @2021_charlie

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