Pardon goes inside, powers Northwestern past American, 63-51
After Thursday night's win over New Orleans, Northwestern coach Chris Collins said he wanted to get Pardon the ball more often. The Wildcats' did just that, and Pardon delivered 18 rebounds and 13 points.
Northwestern struggled early in the game, falling behind in the first ten minutes. Vic Law supplied the bulk of the team's offense, scoring 16 of his 26 points in the first half. But the outside shots weren't falling for the Wildcats, so they began to look inside. What they found there was the lead.
"When it wasn't going down, we decided to go inside. Derek had it a lot. Normally, he's a high percentage guy down there," Collins said. "He had the ball right in his sweet spot. It was just one of those nights when it wasn't going down."
Law changed the momentum of the game with a slam dunk at 11:45 in the first half, electrifying the sparse crowd at the newly remodeled Welsh-Ryan Arena, and waking up his teammates. His ability to play a complete game is a change from last season, when a genetic lung issue prevented Law from playing long stretches. Surgery in the offseason rebuilt his diaphragm, allowing him to put on weight and improve his conditioning. He played 37 minutes on Monday night.
"He worked really hard this summer to get to a point where he was able to play 35, 36 minutes. He couldn't do that in the past. He'd get tired," Chris Collins said. "He wasn't able to put a complete game together. I thought he did that tonight."
Law credited American, who finished 6-24 in 2018, for having a defense that pushed the Wildcats.
"Some days shots are going to fall, but you have to tip your hat to the defense. We did a good job in the second half slowing them down," Law said. "You're not going to play great every game but you've got to gut the game out.'
The Wildcats were able to stay out of foul trouble even as they played aggressively in the paint, which the Eagles were not able to do. American had three players in foul trouble, including Jacob Boonyasith, who fouled out.
Northwestern has one more home game before heading to Fresno for the Wooden Classic. They play Binghamton on Friday.
"I told them that at the end of the season, no one is going to ask us how pretty our game was against American. They'll say, did you win or did you lose? We made enough plays to win tonight," Collins said.
The Northwestern football team won the Big Ten West by beating Iowa on Saturday, and Collins said he was one of the team's biggest fans, watching the game from home.
"I was going nuts! I think we mirror each other a lot. We have similar personalities, and there's no bigger fan of their program than me. We try to use them as an inspiration, and we talk about what they're doing," he said.
SPARK OFF THE BENCH
Ryan Greer's defense impressed Collins, who pointed out the freshman's plus/minus. In 24 minutes, Greer had a plus/minus of 18.
American: Coming off an overtime win against George Mason on Friday, the Eagles could not hold on to an early lead.
Northwestern: When the team's three-point shot turned cold, they found their shot in the paint, which will help the Wildcats as they head into Big 10 play on December 1.
American: Hosts New Hampshire on Friday
Northwestern: hosts Binghamton on Friday