Chris Collins’ squad took care of business at Welsh-Ryan arena on Monday night with a wire-to-wire victory over the visiting Eastern Washington Eagles. The 86-72 victory moved Northwestern to 2-0 on the season heading into a tough test at Butler on Wednesday.
Overall it was a great team performance, especially offensively, with five different Wildcats scoring in double figures. The team shared the ball well with 17 total assists on 29 made field goals. Here are grades for all players involved in the comprehensive winning effort:
Vic Law: A
26 points (7-13 FG, 3-4 3PT, 9-10 FT), 4 rebounds, 0 turnovers, 0 fouls in 37 minutes
Once again, Law was the best player on the floor for Northwestern. After setting his career-high with 18 points against Mississippi Valley State, Law obliterated that mark against tougher opposition and used a completely different selection from his offensive arsenal to do so. While his outside shot was falling, the redshirt sophomore grabbed control of this game with his relentless attacking of the rim on the offensive end.
Recognizing that he had a significant length and size advantage over the Eagles’ bigs, Law attacked off the dribble early and often, finishing around the cup with regularity and getting to the line a game-high 10 times. What’s most promising about his performance was the fact that he hit nine out of those 10 free throws, after going 1-for-7 from the stripe on Friday.
Oh yeah, he also switched onto the Eagles’ biggest player Bogdan Bliznyuk in the second half after the skilled big man had dropped 20 first-half points, and promptly held him to just five in the second on 1-of-7 shooting. Vic Law is back and here to stay, ladies and gentlemen.
Bryant McIntosh: A-
18 points (8-17 FG, 0-1 3PT, 2-2 FT), 7 assists, 1 turnover in 37 minutes
Another player who made his mark by getting into the paint on the offensive end last night was McIntosh. With Eastern Washington switching on every pick-and-roll and with a couple of early jumpers rimming out for him, McIntosh decided to put his nose to the grindstone and go to the cup at will against bigger, slower defenders. He missed some easy shots, but still shot a decent percentage from the field and did well finding teammates with kick-outs and dump-off passes inside the paint. After the game, Chris Collins lauded his point guard for the way in which he controlled and managed the game down the stretch as the Eagles were trying to make a comeback bid.
Scottie Lindsey: B+
12 points (4-11 FG, 0-2 3PT, 4-4 FT), 6 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals in 33 minutes
Like McIntosh, Lindsey had some trouble finding his shooting stroke on Monday. Despite that, the much-improved junior guard arguably played one of his most impressive games in purple and white. He was very active defensively and caused numerous problems shooting gaps, coming up with steals, and sparking fast breaks. He crashed the glass on both ends and led the team in rebounds for the first time in his career. He found success penetrating and dishing, fed the post well, and hit numerous cutters for easy layups leading to his career-high six assists.
Dererk Pardon: B+
12 points (4-5 FG, 4-5 FT), 5 rebounds (3 offensive), 5 blocks, 1 steal in 31 minutes
It is becoming apparent in these first two games that Pardon will not be someone who this team can throw the ball to down low and have him create offense. However, while his post touches were few and far between, there were still many positives from the center’s performance. The energy and hustle plays he provided for the Wildcats Monday night were vital, punctuated by a second-half stretch in which he blocked two shots and finished two offensive put-backs in two consecutive trips up and down the floor. Other positives that were noted by Collins included Pardon’s 31 minutes on the floor without foul trouble and his 4-of-5 mark from the line — two areas in which he struggled in his freshman year.
Isiah Brown: B
11 points (3-10 FG, 1-4 3PT, 4-4 FT), 1 assist, 2 rebounds, 1 turnover in 19 minutes
Two things that no one will question about Brown this year are his confidence and motor. In the context of this team, he has an unparalleled ability and willingness to get his shots up, and that can be both a good and a bad thing. Last night it was a little bit of both. In addition to struggling with his shot from distance, the freshman combo guard repeatedly and often brazenly attacked the basket and had a number of shots sent back by the Eagles’ undersized big men. However, it that same aggression that played a key role in the Wildcats eventual victory.
During a three minute second-half period where McIntosh and Law were both on the bench, Brown scored six points and drew a momentous charge on the defensive end to extend the Northwestern lead. Overall, he will need to learn to pick his spots better and be more efficient in his time on the floor, but he once again displayed a unique scoring skill-set that this team desperately needs.
Sanjay Lumpkin: B-
3 points (1-1 FG, 1-1 3PT, 0-1 FT), 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, 4 fouls in 23 minutes
The 5th-year senior hit a corner three on the first possession of the game, but was largely invisible from then on. Offensive impact is not to be expected from Lumpkin this year, but on this night his ability to make an impact with his defense and rebounding was also curtailed by foul trouble. While he did have some valuable moments protecting the rim and taking care of the ball, we will certainly see better nights from the co-captain.
Gavin Skelly: C
4 points (2-2 FG), 2 rebounds, 0 blocks, 4 fouls in 15 minutes
Monday night was a significant step-back for Skelly after very impressive performances in the scrimmage and opening game. He floundered defensively as the five when asked to guard and rebound against Bliznyuk in the first half, and had absolutely no impact as a rim protector. He did show flashes of his improved and well-rounded offensive skills, but this game overall is one that brought to the forefront all the reasons for skepticism when it comes to his ability to play center in conference play.
Aaron Falzon: N/A
0 points (0-1 FG, 0-1 3PT) in 4 minutes
The mystery of Aaron Falzon continues. After playing just 10 insignificant second-half minutes against Mississippi Valley State, normal service briefly appeared to have resumed Monday as he was one of the first people called off of Collins’ bench. However, after playing a four-minute stint and missing his only shot, he made his way back to the bench and stayed there for the rest of the game. Collins has cited knee troubles as the reason for Falzon’s limited involvement, but without any specific details and with the sophomore wing still in uniform, the whole situation seems incredibly odd and murky. Wildcat fans will just have to wait and see...
Nathan Taphorn: N/A
0 points (0-0 FG), 1 foul in 1 minute
This was another perplexing element of the game. After playing a significant role against MVSU, Taphorn played just one second-half minute Monday in which he didn’t play very well at all and was quickly subbed out.
Barrett Benson: N/A
Did not play
Again, Collins asserted post-game that he was still very high on Benson’s prospects for this year, and that the reason for his DNP was simply due to matching up with Eastern Washington’s small-ball lineup. He said that we could be sure to see Benson playing a significant role against Butler on Wednesday.