Men’s Basketball: Pete Nance has found his rhythm after getting benched mid-season


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Pete Nance blocks an opponent’s shot. The sophomore forward scored 14 points on Wednesday against Wisconsin.

Gabriela Carroll, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

Sophomore forward Pete Nance was benched against Rutgers on Feb. 9 and hasn’t started since, but despite coming off the bench, he’s found a new rhythm.

Northwestern (7-22, 2-17 Big Ten) was down 28-11 to No. 24 Wisconsin (20-10, 13-6 Big Ten) on Wednesday with just under eight minutes left in the first half. They’d shot 3-for-18 up to that point, and the bottom was about to fall out.

Then, following a three from freshman forward Robbie Beran, Nance nailed his own shot from behind the arc for six consecutive points to spur the Wildcats’ rally to pull the game to within four, and to go into halftime with only a six-point deficit.

“I’m proud of our guys,” coach Chris Collins said. “After a real tough start getting down I think 28-11, we put together a really nice stretch to get ourselves back in the game at the end of the first half.”

Since getting benched, Nance has had four games in double-figures,, including a 14 point performance against the Badgers. Against Nebraska on Sunday, Nance only scored six points, but had a season-high 14 rebounds. Nance has grabbed more than five rebounds in five of his last eight games, with seven, 14 and seven rebounds in his last three games.

Nance is the best recruit in school history, but didn’t play for a significant portion of his freshman season due to injury. For most of the season, Nance underachieved, scoring in double figures only four times in the 13-game stretch between the start of Big Ten play and when he got benched, but was an overall consistent starter.

But as of late, Nance has provided a crucial spark off the bench more efficient scoring. Against Wisconsin, Nance worked through Wisconsin’s tough defense to find open looks, and those six points changed the entire team’s play, with points from Beran, freshman guard Boo Buie and freshman center Jared Jones.

Earlier in the season, Nance looked lost. He was missing the aggressiveness that made him the top-rated recruit in NU’s history, and one of its current starters. With the emergence of Buie and the consistency of graduate guard Pat Spencer, and fellow sophomore forward Miller Kopp’s improved scoring, Nance needed to be at the top of his game to stay in the lineup.

But Nance’s recent performances suggest he’s almost there. His play against Wisconsin and Nebraska show a willingness to shift into different roles –– a scorer against the Badgers, a defender against the Cornhuskers –– and Collins sees that effort paying off.

“He’s been putting the time in, his attitude has been great,” Collins said. “And he wants to be a good player. He’s just got to keep working and keep finding it.”

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Twitter: @gablcarroll