Men’s Basketball: Northwestern upsets Providence for first win of season


Joshua Hoffman/The Daily Northwestern

Senior forward A.J. Turner dribbles the ball. Northwestern’s defense only allowed 63 points in Wednesday’s win over Providence.

Jonah Dylan, Gameday Editor

Men’s Basketball

How’s that for a bounce back?

Just five days after a historic upset loss to Merrimack, Northwestern upset a Providence team expected to contend in the crowded Big East. Redshirt freshman Ryan Young had a career-high 16 points and came up big down the stretch as the Wildcats (1-1) grinded out a 72-63 win in front of 5,204 fans at a sleepy Welsh-Ryan Arena.

“Obviously this was a huge win for us. That’s probably the understatement of the year. Just really proud of our guys. It was a tough opener,” coach Chris Collins said. “I knew we were gonna play much better. I knew we were gonna play hard. I knew we were gonna play with a lot of fight, but I didn’t know if that would mean winning.”

NU came out with a zone that seemed to confuse the Friars (2-1) from the jump, and both teams struggled in the game’s opening minutes. Providence was consistently getting 3-point looks but couldn’t get anything to go, while the Cats shot an impressive 60 percent from the field in the first half and took a 40-29 lead into the break.

NU came out firing on all cylinders to start the second half and opened a 50-31 lead in a game that threatened to turn into a blowout. But after a Providence timeout, the Friars starting pressing and consistently forcing NU turnovers.

The Cats held up for a while but then started to self-destruct, eventually finishing with 20 turnovers. The Friars countered by finally finding their range from downtown and quickly pulled within five as the game headed toward the final minutes.

Desperately in need of offensive production and up by only three points, the Cats turned to Young, playing in only his second career game. And the 6-foot-10, 235-pound center delivered in a major way, connecting off a Pat Spencer dish and grabbing a key rebound on Providence’s ensuing possession.

“He was awesome. So proud of him,” Collins said. “The reason we redshirted him is we feel like he can be a really good player. It’s not because we didn’t feel good about him, it’s because we wanted to invest in who he’s gonna be.”

After Alpha Diallo missed another three-pointer, Spencer hit two free throws to ice the game for the home team. It was a much-needed win after a disturbing season opener against the Warriors where the Cats looked outclassed against a team playing in just its second game as a Division I team.

Though NU seemed hellbent on giving Providence every chance to get back in the game, the Friars shot a dismal 22 of 72 and couldn’t find a way to get past the Cats. Diallo tallied 15 points to pace the Friars.

“When teams go on runs, it’s easy for teams to fall apart,” junior guard Anthony Gaines said. “But we made sure we communicated on the defensive end and continued to stay locked in.”

Collins got production from several different places, and NU needed every last bit of it. Spencer scored 11 points despite battling through foul trouble for most of the night. Gaines stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 14 points, four assists and seven rebounds while anchoring the Cats’ zone on the other end.

Collins said the team met on Sunday to regroup after the loss, and that meeting clearly went a long way in helping NU earn its first win of the season on Wednesday.

“That first game was just — it wasn’t our team,” Young said. “Sometimes you come out and we were flat, there wasn’t a ton of energy. Sunday we said it can’t happen again. We just talked about ‘it’s just one game.’ So it’s not the end of the season, it’s not the end of the world, and I think we really bounced back tonight.”

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