Men’s Basketball: How the freshmen fit into the game-plan in win over Binghamton


Daily file photo by Allie Goulding

Pete Nance shoots a jump shot. The freshman forward had 10 points against Binghamton.

Charlie Goldsmith, Sports Social Media Editor

Men’s Basketball

Three minutes into the game, freshman forward Pete Nance received a pass on the wing and simultaneously turned the ball over and fouled Bearcats guard Sam Sessoms. As Nance ran down the floor, Collins shouted the freshman’s name in frustration, and less than a minute he later took Nance out altogether.

It was a compelling moment in an otherwise forgettable 82-54 rout against Binghamton on Friday.

The scene highlighted two of the biggest questions Northwestern has been facing all season — how much to trust the first years and how much responsibility to give them right away. Collins used a different rotation in the third game of the season, and he said he’s still processing how Nance, forward Miller Kopp and guard Ryan Greer will ultimately fit into the team’s season-long plans.

After the opening minutes of Friday’s lopsided game, Collins kept them in so they could highlight their skill sets and even make mistakes.

“As a freshman coming to college basketball, the first thing that you’re worried about is just catching up with the pace,” junior center Barret Benson said. “Because when you get on that floor, things are moving 100 miles per hour, a lot faster than you expected and you can’t really prepare for that besides playing.”

In the Wildcats’ exhibition game this season, Collins trotted out a surprising starting lineup with Kopp on the wing alongside graduate guard Ryan Taylor and senior forward Vic Law. But even though Kopp has been starting, he only played 14 minutes in the opener against New Orleans and just seven minutes against American. Likewise, Nance only got 12 minutes in the first game and three in the second.

Before Friday’s game, the only freshman to get extended minutes in a game was Greer, who played 15 second-half minutes against the Eagles because he could consistently find senior center Dererk Pardon in the post.

Nance and Kopp both played season-high minutes against Binghamton and were hunting shots for the first time all season, combining for 18 attempts in the game. Kopp, who finished with seven points, was able to get to the rim better than he had in the previous two games. And Nance finished with 10 and made his first two pick-and-pop jumpers of the season in tandem with sophomore guard Anthony Gaines.

“I thought Pete gave us great minutes in the first half,” Collins said. “When the game was still kind of in doubt, I thought he came in and scored (10) points, had a couple rebounds and blocked a shot… (Kopp and Nance) have been willing learners, willing workers, and hopefully they’ll continue to improve as the season goes on.”

All of Nance’s baskets and all but one of Kopp’s in the first two games were spoonfed threes or baskets close to the rim. Against the Bearcats, even though Nance and Kopp both shot under 50 percent from the field, they were aggressive as they played double-digit second-half minutes.

“Those are important minutes for all of those guys, and I wanted them to understand that.,” Collins said. “You look at a score and say ‘Oh, it’s the last eight minutes,” but those are valuable minutes early in a career.”

The questions about Nance’s and Kopp’s roles on the team still linger, and Collins won’t be able give the freshmen designated developmental minutes until NU plays Chicago State on Dec. 17.

It’s also unlikely that the Cats can run the table in the Wooden Legacy and beat highly regarded Indiana and undefeated Michigan and DePaul in the next three weeks without some major contributions from the newcomers.

Collins has said he’ll always ride the hot hand down the stretch of close conference games, but for the first time all season, Nance and Kopp showed they belong in the conversation.

“They both have bright futures,” Collins said. “I want them to continue to gain confidence, especially as they’re young right now and learning what it’s all about.”

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