Rapid Recap: Northwestern 70, Norfolk State 59


(Alison Albelda/Daily Senior Staffer). Miller Kopp dribbles the ball. Northwestern won its second game of the season Friday

Charlie Goldsmith, Holiday Guide Editor

Men’s Basketball

Technically, this was a step in the right direction.

In the last 16 minutes of the first half this time, Northwestern made more than one field goal, so there’s that. The Wildcats didn’t give up 24 points in the paint again, so there’s that. And the Wildcats actually won.

But it took awhile for NU to get going, and for most of the first quarter it looked like the Cats would lose their third game of the season to a low-major opponent as double digit favorites. Eventually, NU flipped the switch and started playing like a Big Ten team in a non-conference buy game

Sophomore forward Pete Nance scored 17 points, and NU (2-2) beat Norfolk State (3-3) 70-59.

NU trailed for the first 13 minutes of the game, missing 14 of its first 17 shots. Meanwhile, the Spartans made four early threes and picked apart the Cats 2-3 zone to take a ten-point lead early in the game.

The Cats finally took a lead 13 minutes into the first half, after sophomore forward Miller Kopp made a transition three to cap off a 12-0 run. NU crawled back into the game by making nine free throws in four minutes, which was part of a 29-7 run to end the half.

Junior guard Anthony Gaines opened the second half with a transition dunk, and NU never led by fewer than eleven points after the break. Kopp and freshman center Ryan Young both scored double digit points, and the Cats kept a comfortable distance from Norfolk State down the stretch.

NU earned a much needed win heading into the Fort Myers Tip-Off, which begins Monday in Florida with a game against Bradley.

1. Pete Nance had the best game of his career

Last season, Pete Nance averaged 2.9 points in 14 minutes per game. He made ten total threes and started just once.

This year, Nance has been the team’s best player all season and averages close to a double-double, and he his best game of the season Friday against Norfolk State. He set a career-high for threes in a game in the first half alone by making three shots beyond the arc, including a 24-foot buzzer beater to close the first half.

Three inches taller than everyone in the Spartans’ rotation, Nance never had a hand in his face at the three-point line or in the paint. He shot 50 percent from the field and led the Cats out of its rough stretch in the first half.

2. NU makes impactful switch from zone to man

Norfolk State got out to a ten-point lead by making wide open shots against the Cats’ zone defense. The zone had been a cornerstone for NU all season and was successful against Providence and Radford, but the Spartans quickly figured it out.

The Cats eventually switched to man defense, and it paid off as they held Norfolk State to 18 points over a 20 minute stretch in the middle portion of the game. The Spartans finished the game shooting just 41 percent from the field.

3. Now the schedule picks up

In NU’s next four games, the team will exclusively face teams that made the tournament last year or play in a power-six conference. The stretch starts with the game Monday against the Braves, who were a 15-seed in the NCAA Tournament last year. Then the Cats will face either Kansas State or Pittsburgh, followed by matchups against Boston College and Purdue.

It’s a much more difficult slate than NU’s first four games. The season started with contests against middling teams from the Northeast Conference, the Big South and the MEAC, in addition to Providence.

The Cats won’t play many more teams on Norfolk State’s level the rest of the season, but at least this time they beat an opponent they were heavily favored to win against.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @2021_Charlie