No one other than Vic Law knows how frustrating and, at times, disappointing his freshman season at Northwestern has been. Yet, on Saturday afternoon, in a drubbing of Penn State, the former ESPN100 recruit showed what all the high school buzz was about.
Scoring 17 points on 7-12 shooting and grabbing a career-high 11 rebounds, Law compiled his first college double-double and was one of three Northwestern players (Tre Demps and Alex Olah were the other two) to score in double figures. The South Holland, Ill. product, ranked the No. 6 recruit from Illinois in the Class of 2014, was one of the biggest reasons Northwestern won this game in the convincing fashion it did.
"I thought Vic Law was definitely the difference," Penn State coach Pat Chambers said. "He had 17 points and was hitting all those jumpers. He changed his body, looks great and is running the floor really well. When he plays a lot of minutes, they're [Northwestern] really good."
Law's first year at Northwestern has been a struggle with inconsistency. Sometimes, he'll disappear in games, like he has done in a few Big Ten matchups--note his six minutes in the overtime win vs. Iowa--and sometimes he plays like one of the country's highest-rated recruits coming out of high school.
Today, though, was undoubtedly his best performance in college. Whenever he got the ball, whether it was for an open three or short jumper, you just had the feeling it was going to fall. The rotation on his shot was as perfect as could be, the type of beautiful end-over-end movement that the best shooters in NCAA and NBA seem to get on every one of their attempts.
"Certainly, this was a breakout for Vic Law," Chris Collins said. "I'm really proud of Vic. He wanted to be the first guy to come here and help us turn it around. He's gone through some ups and downs but he has just kept working."
Collins emphasized how, throughout the whole season, Law has continued to improve his craft, whether that's in the weight room or on the floor. That's what Collins cited as a big part of his strong effort--in terms of shooting and rebounding--which helped his Wildcats crush Chambers' Nittany Lions.
"He's been in the gym, tirelessly, with the coaches, working on his skills," Collins said as he spoke highly of his freshman forward. "Hit a couple huge shots when we needed him. His nine defensive rebounds, also, I thought, were huge."
The confidence he displayed on both ends of the floor was a far cry from the Law that was too eager to turn down an open shot and make the extra pass earlier in the season. It's not much of a leap to say as Law's confidence has been increasing, with today's win and the win over Minnesota, his level of play has followed suit.
When Law spoke, he admitted how much his pregame preparation has improved since the season began. College basketball is much, much different from high school basketball, which is a fact Law says he is finally understanding. You can't just show up and immediately be the best player on the floor without putting in the effort in practice.
"I think I'm starting to get used to college basketball now, so everything is getting a little easier," Law said. "I'm taking things a lot more seriously, like the shots I take before the game. I know that for each game and practice in the Big Ten, you have to go as hard as you can."
Fans and others involved in the program, which hasn't experienced much success in its history, can easily latch onto a player such as Law and immediately expect the world from him, even if such expectations are inherently lofty. As Collins always says, it's a process. Law is not going to become a star from day one and it might take awhile for him to cement his status as a formidable Big Ten player.
That doesn't diminish what he did today by any means. In fact, it gives a little glimpse into just how good he can be for this team in the future as he and his teammates develop. Clearly, he's a kid who gets it and knows the heavy burden he carries for this program and university. He's also a kid who wholeheartedly believes he can handle that burden, and do it well.