Men’s Basketball: Northwestern finally finds momentum in win over Norfolk State


Alison Albelda/The Daily Northwestern

Pete Nance surveys the floor. The sophomore forward scored double digit points again Friday.

Charlie Goldsmith, Reporter

Men’s Basketball

Pete Nance threw his hands in the air and wore the kind of smile you have when you hit a buzzer beating 3-pointer from well beyond the arc.

When the sophomore forward made the shot –– which put Northwestern up double-digits to end the first half –– he had every reason to feel a little bit of relief.

After the Wildcats lost two of their first three games of the season to low-majors Merrimack and Radford, they needed any sort of positive momentum. With just one shot, Nance had NU rolling into the locker room.

The Cats trailed by 10 points early in the first half Friday against Norfolk State, but then Nance got going. He finished with 17 in NU’s (2-2) 70-59 win over the Spartans (3-3), leading the Cats to a much-needed bounceback win following Tuesday’s loss to the Highlanders.

“What a difference a few days makes,” coach Chris Collins said. “Obviously after not playing as well the other night and having a tough loss, I was really proud of the guys and the way we responded.”

It took awhile for NU to actually bounce back, and the Cats missed 14 of their first 17 shots. The Spartans led 18-8 early in the first half, but then NU went on a 29-7 run capped off by Nance’s buzzer beater.

That stretch coincided with the Cats switching from a 2-3 zone to man defense. NU’s zone had been effective against Providence and Radford, but Norfolk State picked it apart by hitting four early threes. After the Cats switched to man-to-man, the Spartans shot below 35 percent from the field and had 13 turnovers.

“We really came together when we went to man,” Nance said. “We did a really great job locking down their sets, and we did a really good job of communicating on defense. It was really our unity that brought us back into that one.”

The Cats’ lead never dipped below 11 points after halftime, and they held their lead by scoring a season best 16 points in transition. Freshman center Ryan Young led the offense with 19 points, and sophomore forward Miller Kopp added 11.

With a 10-man rotation that includes seven underclassmen, Collins said he was impressed to see NU respond from its early deficit and take control of the game. Heading into a stretch of games that includes three power-conference matchups and a fourth game against a 2018 NCAA Tournament team, Collins said the Cats have to be more consistent going forward, starting with the Fort Myers Tip-Off on Monday against Bradley.

“We’ve learned that we can be pretty good, and we’ve learned that we can look bad, but we’re starting to figure it out a little bit,” Collins said. “Are there going to be nights we still look like were playing six first year guys? Probably. But hopefully those are few and far between and hopefully you see a team that’s going to continue to improve.”

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