EVANSTON, Ill. — One game, one expected win at the new Welsh-Ryan Arena.
It wasn’t as easy as the final score may indicate, though.
What’s ultimately important is that Northwestern (1-0) took care of business Thursday against New Orleans (1-1), earning an 82-52 win in its season-opener. Ryan Taylor and Vic Law led the way for Northwestern offensively, scoring 20 and 18 points, respectively. Taylor showed the shooting prowess that drew an impressive offer sheet this past offseason on the grad-transfer market, going 6-of-11 from beyond-the-arc.
The Wildcats came out of the gates at a blistering pace. Freshman Miller Kopp scored the first official basket at the new arena with a smooth pull-up jumper, before Vic Law and Ryan Taylor hit threes to give NU an 8-0 lead early.
Northwestern led by as much as 14 in the first half, but New Orleans hung around. The Privateers didn’t make a three in the first half, but outscored the bigger Wildcats 18-4 in the paint.
And, at times in the first half, Northwestern’s new-look offense stalled. Debuting an offense largely predicated on cutting, motion and ball-movement, the Wildcats took a lot of threes — and didn’t make a whole lot of them. NU went 6-of-19 from three-point range in the first 20 minutes, and finished 11-30 from distance. After a solid, but somewhat complacent first half, Northwestern led by 8 at the break.
The second half was back-and-forth in the early going. For the first 8 or so minutes of the second half, every time it felt like Northwestern would pull away, the Privateers had an answer to keep the score relatively close. At one point, New Orleans cut the NU lead to four.
Eventually, though, the more athletic, more talented team pulled away. With about 12 minutes left, Northwestern ripped off a 16-4 run to stretch the lead to 17, and it was pretty comfortable for Chris Collins & Co. from there.
It was a night to forget for freshman Pete Nance, who went scoreless in the first half, before making a three when the game was over. Kopp also cooled off after a nice spurt in the game’s opening minutes.
Despite starting a lineup that included Jordan Ash, Miller Kopp, Ryan Taylor, Vic Law and Dererk Pardon, Collins mostly stuck with a lineup of A.J. Turner, Anthony Gaines, Taylor, Law and Pardon when the game still mattered in the second half.
Northwestern’s next game is Monday at home against American.