Men’s Basketball: Vic Law lifts sloppy Wildcats past American in second game of season


Katie Pach/Daily Senior Staffer

Vic Law dunks during the first half of Monday's game against American.

Ben Pope, Gameday Editor

Men’s Basketball

The brand-new Welsh-Ryan Arena was half empty and Northwestern played at times just as sleepily, shooting a mere 36 percent from the field, but solid performances from two key senior leaders carried the hosts to victory nonetheless.

Senior forward Vic Law tallied 26 points, tied for second-most in his long college career, and senior center Dererk Pardon pulled down 18 rebounds, easily the second-most of his career, as the Wildcats (2-0) slipped past American in an ugly 63-51 victory Monday night.

“It was not going well for us from a shooting standpoint, to say the least,” coach Chris Collins said. “We were getting the ball exactly where we wanted to get it, wide open shots, getting it to Pardon multiple times at the basket. It was just one of those nights where we felt like there was a lid on the basket.”

NU trailed throughout much of a foul-laden first half while the visiting Eagles (1-1) benefited from some fortunate bounces, yet a strong closing stretch gave the Cats a 38-31 edge at the break. But the team’s shooting woes worsened even further in the second half, with only three of their first 18 shot attempts in the frame falling, and American rallied back to tie the game with 11 minutes left.

After a long scoring drought, however, a 13-2 run knocked the upset risk out of DEFCON 1 level and NU played with a comfortable lead for the closing minutes. The team ultimately conceded only 20 points in the second half — another impressive defensive showing on the heels of last Thursday’s 82-52 season-opening win over New Orleans.

“We just dug down deep and pulled it out,” Pardon said. “We knew with their offense that we had to be disciplined and solid, so we just had to lock in and get stops and that’s what we did. If we hold anyone to 51 points, then we’re going to be good.”

Law and sophomore guard Anthony Gaines closely followed shifty American guard Sa’eed Nelson throughout the night and held the Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year to just 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting. Center Mark Gasperini led the Eagles with 17 points, but the team collectively found little space to operate in the Cats’ end.

On the other side of the box score, Pardon and graduate guard Ryan Taylor both got to double digits after a high number of shots — 5-for-14 for 13 points for Pardon and 3-for-9 for 10 points for Taylor — and true freshman guard Ryan Greer scored his first career points in a surprisingly plentiful 24 minutes.

Nevertheless, it was Law who dominated the night, going 9-for-19 from the floor in addition to six rebounds.

“(Last year, Vic) could not put a complete game together. I thought he did that tonight,” Collins said. “He came out early and set the tone for us, I think he had 16 at half, and then when we really needed it late, had a big play on a pull-up jumper, had some really nice drives, (and) played terrific defense all night.”

Collins said he was most proud of the team for not letting their offensive struggles affect its psyche and lead to mistakes on the defensive end, and Law added that he felt the defense was “clicking” right now.

With one more lesser-conference opponent coming into Evanston — Binghamton on Friday — before NU heads to the Wooden Legacy tournament in California next week, the coach emphasized a big-picture outlook when assessing Monday’s pedestrian performance.

“At the end of the season, no one is going to ask us how pretty or ugly the game was against American,” Collins said. “It’s, ‘Did you win or did you lose?’”

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