EVANSTON — In a battle of the felines, it was the Wildcats who took down the Cougars on a sleepy Sunday in Evanston, as Northwestern (5-4) defeated Southern Illinois-Edwardsville 72-54.
Ryan Young was the star on the day, leading Northwestern with a 25-point double double. The big man added four assists and led NU on the offensive end all game, using a plethora of post moves to dismantle the interior SIUE defense.
Young’s totals in points, boards, and assists were all career highs. It was an impressive performance from a player that the ‘Cats need to continue to develop if they are going to compete in the Big Ten.
Another notable stat for Northwestern was its assist to turnover ratio. The ‘Cats typically struggle in that field, but posted an impressive mark of 20-6 today, NU’s best margin of the year.
The ‘Cats’ defense impressed as well. SIUE was limited to 43 percent shooting from the field, and just 29 percent on three-pointers. There were some flaws from Chris Collins’ best unit, including a general failure to be aware of back cuts, but overall it was a solid effort.
In typical Northwestern fashion, the opening portion of the first half was a slugfest. NU held the Cougars to four baskets on their first 15 attempts, but they didn’t do much on the offensive end. scoring only 14 points in the first ten minutes.
The Wildcats were able to continue their lock down defense throughout the remainder of the half, stifling the Cougars in half court sets and limiting any transition opportunities SIUE threatened to have. However, NU’s offense continued to limit its ability to pull away with the contest. The team was 40 percent from the field in the first half, and 20 percent from beyond the arc.
Their struggles to go on a prolonged run allowed the Cougars to claw their way back into the game, entering the half on a 7-1 run and trailing 31-25.
NU opened the second half in a far different manner, however. The ‘Cats blitzed the Cougars out of the gates, scoring 12 of the first 14 points in the half and storming out to a 14-point lead.
The Cougars once again fought back, however, cutting the deficit to eight points at the under-12 timeout. NU’s three-point shooting held them back (the ‘Cats converted on one of their first seven attempts in the second half), but Young’s ability to dominate in the post gave Northwestern enough firepower to score.
As the half went on, so did Northwestern’s control of the game. The interior offense of Young, combined with NU’s ability to push the ball in transition, allowed the team to gain total control of the contest. When the game entered its final minutes, there was no question who was going to come away with the victory.
Pat Spencer added 15 points for the Wildcats, Anthony Gaines chipped in 13, and Boo Buie led the team with six assists despite a woeful 2-13 shooting performance.
Northwestern returns to Welsh-Ryan on Wednesday to take on #16 Michigan State.