Men’s Basketball: Northwestern prepares for game against American

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Daily file photo by Allie Goulding

Vic Law puts the clamps on an opponent. Law scored 18 points against New Orleans.

Peter Warren, Sports Editor


Men’s Basketball


When Lamont Berzat hit a layup with 15:18 left in the second half to cut New Orleans deficit to five points against Northwestern on Thursday, it appeared the Wildcats were going to play in another grudge match to start the year.

“I remember last year we played a (Loyola Maryland) team and only won by (four),” senior forward Vic Law said. “I am happy that this year we handled business and played very well.”

For the final 15:18, the Wildcats outscored the Privateers by 25 points to give NU (1-0) the 82-52 victory at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The Cats ended the game with plenty of breathing room, which was much different than its 2017-18 opener when the Greyhounds had a chance to win the game in the waning seconds.

Now the Wildcats will go up against one of Loyola’s conferences foes — American — at Welsh-Ryan on Monday.

The Eagles (1-0) opened their season against George Mason in Fairfax, Virginia on Friday. The contest went to overtime, where American defeated Patriots, 78-75.

American’s leading scorer was guard Sa’eed Nelson, who scored his 1,000th point during the contest. The New Jersey native was named to the All-Patriot League second-team during his sophomore campaign when he averaged 18.6 points per game and 5.1 assists per contest, both of which were second best in Patriot League.

While Nelson can put the biscuit in the basket, he has a tough time connecting from beyond the arc. He shot only 21.8 percent as a freshman and 29.2 percent last winter. His free throw percentage is also below what one would expect from an impact guard. His career free-throw percentage is 62.1 percent.

On NU’s side of the court, there is not as defined a first-option on offense. Against New Orleans, graduate guard Ryan Taylor led the team in shots with 15 — 11 of which came from beyond the arc — and had a team-high 20 points.

“I think he is fantastic. I am really happy to have Ryan out there,” Law said. “He makes the game a lot easier.”

Law was second on the team with 12 shots and 18 points as he reached the 1,000 point benchmark during the opener.

Junior forward A.J. Turner played the third-most minutes on the team despite coming off the bench, finishing just a minute behind Law and senior center Dererk Pardon in playing time. Taylor and Law both spent some time as the primary ball-handler during the game. Collins said those two — along with senior guard Jordan Ash, sophomore guard Anthony Gaines and freshman guard Ryan Greer — should all be prepared to bring the ball up the court.

“We are a by-committee team,” Collins said. “We want all those guys to feel comfortable. Really with the way we are playing it is a multiple guard offense.”

Collins said the new-look offense is still in development and that he wants to see the team play with more pace and make more confident cuts to the hoop.

The sixth-year coach added he wants to get the ball to Pardon in the post more during the game. Pardon finished with a double-double against the Privateers, but only took five shots.

“Defense is our calling card,” Collins said. “We are a work in progress on the other end. We are learning about our pieces. I’m learning about pieces. We have so many new guys. I’m learning about rotations.”

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