Men’s Basketball: Northwestern overcomes slow offense in win over SIUE


(Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman). Ryan Young takes a layup. The freshman center scored a career-high 25 points Sunday.

Charlie Goldsmith, Reporter

Men’s Basketball

When Northwestern struggled to score in the second half in last week’s loss at Purdue, coach Chris Collins kept putting the ball in Pete Nance’s hands. The sophomore forward didn’t lead the Wildcats to a victory, but he hit enough contested layups to show how important he is to the offense.

Collins didn’t have the luxury of feeding the ball to Nance against SIUE on Sunday, as Nance was suspended by the team for a “failure to adhere to program standards.” Without its starting forward, the offense plodded so slowly that the Cougars kept it close for 30 minutes at Welsh Ryan Arena.

The Cats (5-4, 0-1 Big Ten) eventually pulled away to beat the Cougars (2-8), 72-54, but NU didn’t cement a double-digit lead until the middle of the second half. Even though SIUE has one of the worst offenses and defenses in the NCAA, the Cats kept taking contested shots that prevented them from building a lead.

“Today at the beginning of the game, I feel like we were real flat,” freshman center Ryan Young said. “I don’t think we were playing to the best of our abilities.”

The only reason NU was able to pull away was Young, who said he prides himself on playing with energy against low-major opponents like the Cougars. Young turned in a historic performance Sunday, finishing with a career-high 25 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. No other center in the NCAA has posted that statline all decade.

Young made 11 of his 15 shots and scored every one of his points at the rim or the free throw line. He had 17 in the second half, including several makes off his turnaround hook shot in the post. Young’s dominant second half kept the Cats from having the same fate they did in losses to Merrimack and Radford earlier this season.

“We had to win a different way,” Collins said. “It wasn’t going to be pretty with three-point shooting, and we needed to get (Young) the ball. We knew we had that advantage. We had that guy inside that should be able to be effective against them.”

SIUE trailed by just six points at halftime, and forward Zeke Moore’s 18 points kept the score close for a lot of the second half.

Grad transfer guard Pat Spencer and junior guard Anthony Gaines were the only other players who shot well for the Cats. The starting backcourt combined 28 points, and Spencer played more confidently against the Cougars after going scoreless last Sunday at Purdue.

Young, Spencer and Gaines nearly outscored the Cougars by themselves, but the rest of the team shot 23.3 percent from the field. Sophomore forward Miller Kopp went scoreless in 20 minutes, playing even though he was sick and hadn’t practiced the last few days.

NU will likely have a healthier Kopp and an active Pete Nance when No. 16 Michigan State comes to Welsh Ryan Arena on Wednesday for the Cats’ first home conference game of the season. Heading into a matchup with the team Collins called the Spartans the class of the Big Ten, the coach said NU’s young roster has a difficult challenge ahead of them.

“It’s daunting anytime you play those guys,” Collins said. “To me, they’re the standard for showing up every night, having toughness and playing well at home and on the road. Anytime you play a program like that, you know going into that game that you’re going to have to be the toughest you’ve been.”

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