Men’s Basketball: Northwestern bounces back in Wooden tournament, handles La Salle


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Ryan Taylor goes up for a layup. Taylor had a solid outing Friday as Northwestern topped La Salle.

Ben Pope, Gameday Editor

Men’s Basketball

Northwestern bounced back from a poor performance yesterday by topping La Salle in a choppy game at the Wooden Legacy tournament in Fullerton, California, on Friday.

Vic Law, Ryan Taylor and A.J. Turner all scored 20-plus points as the Wildcats (4-1) bruised their way to a 91-74 over an Explorers team that remains winless in six contests this season.

NU entered the week expecting to contend for the tournament title but saw its hopes derailed quickly in a hard-to-watch 78-59 upset loss to Fresno State on Thanksgiving. Foul trouble for the Cats’ most prominent senior leaders, forward Vic Law and center Dererk Pardon, played a big role in the loss.

Pardon fouled out in the final minutes Friday and Law played much of the second half on four fouls, but this time, NU had opened up such a big lead before the foul trouble began that it was hardly a concern.

“Yesterday we got knocked down by a really good team,” coach Chris Collins said. “You find out the character and the fight in your group by how you respond to those. It won’t be the last time it happens to us. I thought we really re-grouped, we got together and I felt we were going to play well today. I saw it in our guy’s eyes.”

Law shot a rather inefficient 30 percent on field goals yet physically manhandled the Explorers on both ends of the floor, thus going 14-for-16 from the line and producing his second-highest scoring game so far.

His stat line exemplified both teams’ overall numbers in a foul-laden contest: the Cats shot 35-for-43 at the line, while La Salle went 21-for-27. It was the most free throws NU has converted in a single game in at least eight years.

Turner and Taylor — the Cats’ two new veteran faces this year after transferring from Boston College and Evansville, respectively — both turned in their best performances in purple to date. Turner, who entered the day shooting below 30 percent this season, went an efficient 6-for-8 from the floor and 7-for-7 from the line for 20 points. Taylor cooled off after a hot start, but still finished with five assists and 21 points on 6-of-16 shooting.

NU carried a double-digit lead throughout the contest, leading 45-26 at halftime and coasting in the second frame. But the coasting got frustratingly sloppy in the late-going — just as it did in last Friday’s semi-blowout win over Binghamton — and the Cats ended up recording 13 second-half turnovers (versus just five in the first half).

“These games aren’t easy to play, when teams are scattered and trapping everything for the whole game and force you to make basketball plays,” Collins said. “We got a little bit tired in the last few minutes of the game.”

Without a reliable point guard on the roster — senior Jordan Ash and freshman Ryan Greer played only nine minutes each — NU had massive difficulties breaking La Salle’s aggressive full-court press, revealing a weakness that could prove very costly against tougher competition.

Still, the Cats did enough in the first half and made enough free throws down the stretch to never be truly threatened on Friday, at least. They will conclude their Wooden Legacy slate at 1 p.m. Sunday against Utah.

“Overall, I’m really pleased with the quick turnaround, playing against a scrappy La Salle team,” Collins said. “This was a good win for us.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @benpope111