Men’s Basketball: Pete Nance’s versatility is proving to be Northwestern’s secret weapon


Gabe Bider/Daily Senior Staffer

Northwestern senior forward Pete Nance looks up to the bucket while getting ready to take free throws. Nance scored 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the Wildcats’ victory over Fairleigh Dickinson on Thursday.

Skye Swann, Assistant Sports Editor

Holding more than a 20-point lead, Northwestern brought the ball to the paint, looking to set up its offense.

After two unsuccessful attempts driving inside free-throw range, junior forward Robbie Beran passed the ball beyond the arc to senior forward Pete Nance for a wide-open 3-point shot. Nance’s 3-pointer hit nothing but net as it swished inside the bucket, extending the group’s lead to nearly 30 points.

“As a senior, four years of experience has definitely helped my game,” Nance said. “I’ve seen a lot of it before, so naturally the play is gonna slow down the more I’m out (on the court).”

The Wildcats (4-0, 0-0 Big Ten) breezed past Fairleigh Dickinson Thursday in Welsh-Ryan Arena, continuing the team’s four-game win streak since its season opener on Nov. 9. After a subpar 2020-21 season and the loss of junior forward Miller Kopp, the win streak is putting NU on the right track for Big Ten competition in December. Nance scored 19 points Thursday, saving the game toward the latter end of the second half with essential behind-the-arc shots.

A central player for NU against the Knights, Nance was active and persistent on both ends of the court. The Cats took control of the game early, but NU didn’t let up, highlighting its inside-the-paint scheme and working the arc for the open opportunity.

Nance was a key contributor to the Cats’ success the entire game, playing the big man in certain plays while driving to the basket when necessary. He kept NU’s offense alive whenever Fairleigh Dickinson attempted a run. Coach Chris Collins said he was really proud of Nance’s performance Thursday, pointing out the forward’s tremendous growth since his first year with the program.

“He’s a very talented player and now he is playing off his instincts,” Collins said. “He’s playing like an older guy. He’s commanding out there and directing (the ball).”

Collins added Nance has become a leader for the team, stepping into a role he believed the senior could be the moment he joined the program. Following the 2020-21 season, Collins noted Nance showcased promising potential to elevate his game to the next level, mentioning that he “just needed to add all the pieces together.” In the first four games of the 2021-22 season, Collins affirmed Nance stepped up on the court, attributing it to his growing confidence and experience.

Nance’s confidence was evident on the court, finishing the game second in points and leading the team in defensive rebounds. As one of the taller members on the Cats’ squad, Nance said the group wanted to exploit its size in this matchup. He highlighted the team’s strong collective defensive effort, reinforcing this as one of the main focal points for NU as it heads deep into the season.

With another win under the Cats’ belt, Nance said these matches were necessary fuel for the group to power through a highly competitive schedule later in the season, including the Legends Classic next week.

Outside of the upcoming schedule, one thing for certain about the Cats’ squad is Nance will be a key player this season. Whether the team needs him to score, pick-and-pop or defend the paint, he’s going to get it done, Collins said. And Collins felt the past four games only showcased Nance’s strength and influence on the team’s success.

“We move him around (the court),” Collins said. “He can play in different areas and get to the line more. His confidence has made it fun for us because there are a lot more things we can do with him.”

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @sswann301

Related Stories: 

Men’s Basketball: Second half shooting plays major factor in Cats’ 16-point victory

Men’s Basketball: Wildcats ride three-pointers to comeback win against New Orleans

Rapid Recap: Northwestern 83, New Orleans 67