With an opportunity to earn its first decent win of the season and advance to face Miami in the second round of the Wooden Legacy, Northwestern (3-1) looked wholly outmatched against Fresno State (2-1), falling 78-59 in a game it was never really in.
Yet again, shooting, particularly from the outside, was a problem for Northwestern. NU hit just 6-of-22 threes, a decent chunk of which were open. Fresno State extended its defense and applied pressure on the wing, and Northwestern had no answer. There was a clear difference in energy between the teams.
Vic Law looked good scoring the ball early, but he got into foul trouble, sitting for a good stretch of the first half with three fouls. He led NU with 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting. Dererk Pardon, who scored 11 points, was the only other Wildcat to score in double figures.
Northwestern’s offense looked disjointed from the jump, and its lack of a true point guard showed. The Wildcats turned the ball over far too often in the early going, and Fresno State’s capitalized with three after three on the other end. Chris Collins’ team struggled to penetrate off the dribble against the tight defense, and Pardon was largely uninvolved in the offense when the game was still within reach.
On defense, there were defensive miscommunications and missed assignments throughout for Northwestern, and the Bulldogs took full advantage, especially from three-point range. Fresno State shot 11-of-23 from three, including 6-of-12 in the first half.
Northwestern also didn’t get the production it needed out of its two transfers. A.J. Turner struggled again, going just 3-of-12 from the field and 0-of-5 from three. The Boston College transfer is now 1-of-17 from beyond-the-arc on the season. Ryan Taylor wasn’t as assertive he usually is, scoring 6 points on 6 shots.
The loss itself isn’t great for Northwestern, but it stings even more when you consider how it affects Northwestern’s draw for the rest of the Wooden Legacy. Instead of playing a quality Miami team that’s 4-0 this season, Northwestern will play a struggling La Salle team that’s 0-5. Northwestern’s non-conference schedule already lacked high-end, resume-building opponents, and now that’s even more true.
With games against Georgia Tech, Indiana and Michigan looming after the Wooden Legacy, Chris Collins will have to get his team’s issues fixed quickly, or else this season will look a lot like last season.