Men’s Basketball: Northwestern wins fifth place game of Wooden Legacy over Utah


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Vic Law attacks the rim. The senior forward scored a team-high 19 points.

Peter Warren, Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

Despite shooting less than 40 percent from the field in the first half, Northwestern entered the locker room with a four-point lead.

But when the Wildcats returned to the Titan Gym hardwood in Fullerton, California for the second half of the Wooden Legacy fifth-place game against Utah, the Wildcats’ shooting touch — absent for most of the tournament — was found.

Senior forward Vic Law scored 10 points before the first media timeout as NU (5-1) shot 14-for-21 for the first fifteen minutes of the second half to extend its lead to double digits. The Cats continued to score points in the final minutes to turn the close game into a blowout, defeating the Utes 79-57.

“I was really proud of my team today,” coach Chris Collins said. “When you come to these tournaments you want to win the championship. When you lose the first game, your focus then becomes trying to get out of here with a winning record.”

After graduate guard Ryan Taylor missed a three-pointer to start the half, NU scored on its next seven possessions, including four straight 3-pointers. That stretch moved the Cats advantage from 28-24 to 46-34.

The Cats attacked the basket with aggression in the second half and were rewarded with multiple and-one calls. Taylor, junior center Barret Benson and sophomore guard Anthony Gaines all finished nifty layups despite contact. For the whole game, NU was clinical around the basket, finishing nine of its 11 layups.

“Today I was looking to be very aggressive, drive when able to and look for shooters,” Gaines said.

A nifty stepback jumper by Taylor, a deep 3-pointer by Law and a 3-point play by freshman forward Pete Nance put the finishing touches on the win in the waning minutes. The Cats finished the second half shooting 17-for-27 from the field and 6-for-10 from distance.

Defensively, NU forced the Utes (3-3) to commit 21 turnovers and scored 26 points off of those Utah turnovers. The Utes were able to force the Cats into 15 turnovers, but were only able to score 11 points off those turnovers.

“I think we can be a team with deflections that can cause some turnovers and we did that at a very high level today,” Collins said. “We forced that team into 21 turnovers, they don’t normally do that because they are so well coached, and they run their stuff well. It shows how active we were.”

Law led the NU cohort with 19 points — 14 of which came in the second half — on 7-for-14 shooting. Three fellow Cats also scored in double-figures. Senior center Dererk Pardon scored 15 points on an efficient 5-for-5 clip, including 1-for-1 from beyond the arc. Taylor scored 14 points despite shooting 1-for-8 from three-point territory. And with a 87.5 percent day from the charity stripe, Gaines propelled himself to 11 points.

NU leaves California with a 2-1 record at the Wooden Legacy and a fifth-place finish. Collins said Sunday’s victory was a key win for the Cats.

“I always tell our guys ‘Everyone always wants to do something in March,’” Collins said, “but, a lot of times you don’t realize that the games you have in November can help you get to that point.”

Twitter: @thepeterwarren