Golden: Pat Spencer needs to find his old form for NU to salvage its season


Daily file photo by Doreen Du

Pat Spencer loses the ball. The graduate transfer guard finished with 22 points on Sunday.

Andrew Golden, Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

In the 77-68 loss to Minnesota on Sunday, grad transfer guard Pat Spencer hit double-digit scoring for the first time against a high-major team in over a month. Spencer kept Northwestern in the game with his confidence attacking the basket aggressively and drawing defenders.

If the Wildcats want to have any hope to turn their season around, Spencer needs to carry his aggressive style on offense forward throughout the rest of the season.

Heading into conference play, NU (5-8, 0-3 Big Ten) is in a tougher predicament than the Cats originally thought they would be at this point in the season. Before Sunday’s game, NU announced that junior guard Anthony Gaines was going to have season-ending shoulder surgery and freshman guard Boo Buie is out indefinitely.

This is rock bottom for the Cats at this point in time and NU needs a spark — and if there’s anyone to do it, Spencer is the guy.

Spencer brings a high level of intensity and confidence, at least early on in the season and the team fed off that energy. It shows in his fiery emotion after he scores and in the way he plays. But that had been lacking recently.

Buie was starting to come into his own at point guard offensively, while Spencer was heading in the opposite direction. In the previous three games, Buie scored 26, 25 and 14 while Spencer finished with 4, 8 and 7.

But Spencer had shown his flashes too earlier on in the season, looking unstoppable against Bradley and Pittsburgh during the Fort Myers Tip-Off and averaging 20.5 points per game.

Of the remaining players, Spencer has the ability to create his shot off the dribble more than any on the team — and he proved it time and time again on Sunday in the paint. Against taller defenders and dealing with tough angles, the graduate guard was able to convert and-ones and make them look easy.

But while the Cats need Spencer to score, his attacking mentality will warrant a lot of attention from the defense, which means he has to be a distributor as well.

With just seven scholarship players remaining, NU doesn’t have a player aside from Spencer who has an ability to consistently create their own shot. Sophomore forward Pete Nance has his flashes and his partner-in-crime Miller Kopp is stronger on the catch-and-shoot.

If the Cats want to find ways to get open shots without any playmakers, Spencer will need to show his ability to find the open guy when he’s on the attack. While he doesn’t have a plethora of options, he could drive and kick out to open guys like Kopp and Nance, which worked in the second half.

On pick and roll sets, redshirt freshman Ryan Young has been able to find open shots throughout the season off passes from Spencer. The graduate guard can only do so much shooting, so creating for his teammates could be beneficial moving forward.

Without Gaines or Turner on the court, NU needs a leader to set the tone and the example for how the team needs to be playing. Even though Spencer is as experienced on a basketball court at this level as the current freshman, he knows what it takes to be a leader of the team.

No one expects Spencer to play out of this world and the team has more problems than just his early season struggles. But he needs to exude and play with the same confidence that he showed earlier in the season and attack offensively like it.

If Spencer can play like he played tonight, it could be the first step in the Cats rising up from rock bottom.

Andrew Golden is a Medill junior. He can be contacted at [email protected] If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected] The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @andrewcgolden