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Northwestern-Nebraska final score: Dererk Pardon dominates to move Wildcats to 13-1

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Northwestern is off to its best start ever.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Dererk Pardon wasn't supposed to play this year. Chris Collins wanted to allow the freshman to develop while sitting behind veteran centers in seniors Alex Olah and Joey van Zegeren. But an Olah foot injury later and now Northwestern has what looks like a budding star on its hands.

Pardon led Northwestern to a 81-72 victory at Nebraska with 28 points and 12 rebounds as the Wildcats won their Big Ten opener to move to 13-1 on the year. The freshman from Cleveland dominated the interior offensively scoring in a variety of ways including post-ups, put-backs and on the pick-and-roll. With four minutes left in the game and Northwestern down one, Pardon slammed home a Bryant McIntosh missed three to give Northwestern the lead. From that point, the Wildcats didn't look back.

After Northwestern went down 12 with 17:44 left, Pardon scored 20 of his 28 points and was the catalyst for the Wildcats down the stretch. Along with Pardon, freshman Aaron Falzon provided a nice spark with nine first-half points and 12 overall.

Nothing came easy for Northwestern's backcourt as Tre Demps and Bryant McIntosh shot 10-30 from the field for 28 combined points. But, again, the guards didn't need to be great with Pardon's performance.

Northwestern, which is now off to its best start in program history, takes on No. 4 Maryland at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Saturday.

Analyzing Pardon's play

While Pardon won't play this well in every game this year, his emergence provides Northwestern with a talented big body that can frustrate some of the bigger, more physical frontlines in the Big Ten. The most impressive part of his game was the versatility. Sure the raw skills were on display with his physicality and timing on the glass. His hands were superb and his feet were active.

But offensively, Pardon showed a lot of variety in his game. He was able to turn over both shoulders in the post and looked really comfortable screening on the perimeter and finding his way into open spaces while rolling toward the hoop. His 7-foot-3 wingspan makes him a big target in the pick-and-roll and McIntosh and Demps both found him for scores.

Defensively, Pardon wasn't great in the middle of the zone as he was late helping on drives, evidenced by his four personal fouls. Overall, though, he was passable, using the timing and hands that were so important to his rebounding to alter shots.