Northwestern is headed back home with a Power Five win and a 2-1 mark at the Wooden Legacy tournament after a 79-57 win over Utah on Sunday afternoon.
A litany of Utah (3-3) turnovers helped NU (5-1) establish an early lead, before an impressive second half display in which NU outscored Utah 51-33 and shot 63 percent from the field. The Wildcats had major success from beyond the arc (10-of-21) and the charity stripe (15-of-22). Utah looked out of sync offensively, turning the ball over 21 times.
Vic Law led all scorers with 19 points, including 14 in the second half, while Dererk Pardon added 15 more on 5-of-5 shooting. He hasn’t missed a field goal since Thursday. Ryan Taylor poured in 14 despite a tough shooting night and Anthony Gaines added 11 more, to go with four rebounds and two assists.
The early start led to some sloppy play, with 11 combined turnovers in the game’s first five minutes. Northwestern struggled to crack Utah’s zone defense as the Wildcats missed six their first eight shots. Still, Utah didn’t fare much better against an energetic Northwestern defense, turning the ball over 10 times in the game’s first 10 minutes. 13 first-half Utah turnovers turned into 13 Wildcat points.
Three-pointers, including the first trey of Dererk Pardon’s career, keyed an 11-2 push that gave NU a six-point lead with 7:58 to go in the half. Northwestern held Sedrick Barefield and Donnie Tillman, Utah’s top scorers, without a field goal in the first half, but the duo went 8-of-8 from the free throw line and the Utes narrowed NU’s lead to 28-24 at the half.
Pardon and his Utah counterpart, Novak Topalovic, battled all half, combining for 16 points on 7-of-7 shooting from the field.
Vic Law and the Wildcats opened the second half on fire. The senior made his first four attempts of the final period, including two three-pointers. Northwestern made its first six field goals of the second half to extend its lead to 43-34 at the under-16 media timeout. Utah continued to shoot itself in the foot with turnovers; the Utes finished with 21 for the game.
An A.J. Turner three moments later made it seven consecutive field goals, and Ryan Taylor converted an athletic and-1 to push the advantage to 12. The teams traded buckets for a good portion of the second half before a 7-0 run by Northwestern gave the Wildcats a 16-point lead. The Utes would never get closer than 12 for the remainder of the game.
Sunday’s win over Utah was Northwestern’s first win over a Pac-12 opponent since Dec. 19, 2009, a 70-62 win over Stanford.