Men’s Basketball: Pardon and Law spark NU offense in loss to Wisconsin


Alison Albelda/Daily Senior Staffer

Dererk Pardon celebrates a string of baskets. He scored 21 points against Wisconsin on Saturday.

Ella Brockway, Copy Chief

On paper, Northwestern’s 69-64 loss to No. 22 Wisconsin was more of the same: the Wildcats lost their fifth Big Ten game by five or fewer points, and their losing streak extended to eight games.

But on the floor, there were improvements worth noting, coach Chris Collins said in the postgame news conference.

“We’ve been terrific defensively all year. Our problem has been our inability to score at a lot of times, just to manufacture offense,” Collins said. “If you take out the Iowa game, we’re in the low 50s or the 40s in every game, and you’re not going to win in the Big Ten scoring 48 or 52 points, so I thought we executed well tonight.”

NU (12-15, 3-13 Big Ten) gave its best offensive performance of late against the Badgers (19-8, 11-5), shooting above 40 percent for just the fourth time in 2019 and putting up more than 60 points for the second time since a Jan. 22 win against Indiana. Its assist-to-turnover ratio — 17 assists to three turnovers — was the highest it has been this season at 5.67.

Seniors Vic Law and Dererk Pardon each scored 20 or more points in the same game for the first time in their NU careers.The two average a combined 29.3 points per game, nearly half of the Cats’ average total of 66.2.

Law, who finished with 24 on Saturday, kept the Cats alive during the second half when he scored 11 straight. Pardon’s 21 points were the most a starting center has scored on the Badgers in Big Ten play during this 2018-19 campaign.

“We just played with confidence,” Pardon said. “Our coach told us to just come out and shoot our shots, and that’s what we did. We ran our offense pretty well, we executed when we needed to.”

With Law and Pardon receiving the majority of the offensive looks, no other player finished with more than 6 points. Forwards A.J. Turner, Aaron Falzon and Miller Kopp and sophomore guard Anthony Gaines each played more than 20 minutes and didn’t make more than two shots, but all four players took five or more field goal attempts and stayed aggressive on the offensive end.

NU finished with an adjusted offensive efficiency rating — an advanced statistic that estimates the points per 100 possessions that a team would score against the average Division I defense on a given night — of 117.5 in the loss to the Badgers, according to stats provided by college basketball analyst Bart Torvik. Omitting the anomalous buzzer-beater defeat at Iowa on Feb. 10, in which the Cats earned a rating of 119.7, Saturday was the first time since a Nov. 23 win over La Salle that NU’s rating was higher than 115 points.

“We ran some sets that were causing them problems with our spacing,” Collins said. “I thought we got some rolls on Dererk, Vic was able to get some separation on shots … That’s why you prepare for these games, so you can try to find some holes to exploit a really good team.”

With only four games left in the regular season, it may be too little too late for NU. There were still visible offensive struggles: Law missed a key free throw that could have put the Cats up by one with 3:15 left. Also, Falzon’s missed 3-point attempt down three with four seconds to play was his fifth miss of the game and NU’s fifteenth miss from deep Saturday.

But on a night when the Cats came within minutes of their first win over a ranked opponent since last February, and when Welsh-Ryan Arena was the loudest and most energetic it’s been this season, there was a small silver lining in dropping 64 points on a team that held NU to just 46 in January.

“Our defensive numbers are fantastic, it’s just our struggles have been on the offensive end, and I thought tonight we were better,” Collins said. “We found some gaps, we got some layups, we got some dunks … Obviously you’re going to look better when you score.”

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