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What we learned in Northwestern Wildcats’ 69-60 win over Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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Dererk Pardon, Northwestern Wildcats, TExas Longhorns

The Northwestern Wildcats went out on the road once again and scored another big, if imperfect victory, defeating Rutgers 69-60.

Northwestern was struggling heading toward halftime of its game against Rutgers on Thursday night. The Wildcats shot 26.5 percent in the first half and were trailing the entire way, struggling to get rebounds and find any momentum.

Bryant McIntosh struggled to get shots and get others involved. The shots were not falling. Freshman Isaiah Brown was leading the team in scoring as the only one able to generate some offense.

This was the famous letdown game for Northwestern. The inexcusable blemish that would sully their NCAA Tournament resume. This felt like that inevitable game for this constantly cursed program.

Northwestern gathered itself again and dominated the second half. The Wildcats shot 51.7 percent from the floor. Their stars picked up their slack as Scottie Lindsey and Victor Law made their shots and got the offense moving.

The movement and flow returned and the Wildcats raced ahead of the Knights. Dererk Pardon continued to help Northwestern hold down the fort as Rutgers struggled to finish on the interior. If this were a better team, Northwestern might have been in bigger trouble with that start.

The Wildcats did what Tournament teams have to do. They took care of business. That matters for something, right?

Northwestern took control and took the tempo of the game. The team found its identity and did not let the momentum of a road game take anything away from them.

The Wildcats played some strong defense and eventually pulled away for the victory. This was a gut-check, should-win game the Wildcats avsolutely needed.

They passed that test with relative ease. Or at least ease enough.

Pardon the inside

Dererk Pardon made his presence known throughout the game and anchored the inside, dominating the Rutgers interior and keeping Rutgers from getting easy baskets.

Pardon blocked a career-high eight shots, the second most blocks in a single game in Northwestern history. Pardon eight points and 11 rebounds. He was legitimately on triple double watch for much of the evening.

His presence was a big part of Northwestern’s defensive mastery inside. Rutgers shot 31.9 percent including 1 for 12 from beyond the arc. And that was a late 3-pointer at that. Rutgers consistently struggled to make shots around the basket with Pardon helping change shots.

Northwestern struggled for much of the first half with offensive rebounds and winning 50/50 balls. The Wildcats helped lock down the offensive glass and hold the Knights to one shot through much of the second half. It helped Northwestern easily pull away.

Pardon has made a big difference for Northwestern since returning from injury. His inside presence has had some marginal effects defensively and on the glass. But it has had an overall positive effect. It has made Northwestern’s defense a lot stronger.

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Disappearing McIntosh

Bryant McIntosh’s struggles this season are becoming well documented. And it is a continuing storyline.

McIntosh is still one of Northwestern’s best players. When he is attacking and creating for others, Northwestern is at its best. The team becomes extremely difficult to stop.

The Wildcats need McIntosh to win games.

That was born out again in Thursday’s game. McIntosh struggled once again in the first half and the offense stagnated and suffered. He focused too much on his own shot and the Wildcats could not get their team moving.

McIntosh finished with six points and four assists on 2-for-10 shooting. McIntosh got better in the second half, but was virtually a non-factor throughout the game. Brown, McIntosh’ backup, kept Northwestern in the game throughout the first half.

McIntosh is still vitally important to Northwestern. The Wildcats, though, got a lift from other players. And on a bad day they still were able to lift their teammate up and get the win.

Live and die on the 3

Northwestern is a 3-point shooting. That is who this team is.

The missed shots in the first half were a big reason for Northwestern’s overall offensive struggled. The team uses the shot to loosen things up on the interior. When the team is not making shots, it beocmes more difficult for the team to spread the floor.

It was telling Northwestern still won despite making just 3 of 20 3-point attempts. Victor Law missed all four of his attempts. Scottie Lindsey was just 1 of 7 from beyond the arc.

The Wildcats did attack though. They got to the line for 20 free throw attempts, including nine from Law himself.

This was not an efficient day for the Wildcats. They struggled to make shots.

But Northwestern found the shots they needed in the end. They attacked in transition and they got into the interior. Like with Rutgers attacking the glass in the first half, Northwestern attacked hte offensive glass in the second half. Those second-chance opportunities helped keep Northwestern’s offense afloat.

And that was enough in the end.

Philip Rossman-Reich is a Northwestern alumnus and former contributor Lake The Posts. He also writes for Orlando Magic Daily and The Step Back.

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Widcats Basketball

WATCH: Northwestern unveils inside look at Welsh-Ryan Arena

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After a year spent at the strange confines of Allstate Arena out in Rosemont, the Northwestern Wildcats basketball teams will return home to Welsh-Ryan Arena for the 2018-19 season. 

On Friday, the Wildcats released a video look at what the new-look arena actually looks like ahead of the opener. 

Take a look at this state-of-the-art arena built around the old school appearance on the outside. 

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Northwestern

Northwestern Wildcats caught in a bind with Jordan Lathon’s surprise release

Northwestern University has rescinded their offer of admission to star guard Jordan Lathon. That leaves Northwestern in a deep bind at point guard.

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Bryant McIntosh, Chris Collins, Northwestern Wildcats

The Northwestern Wildcats have seen a sudden rash of transfers that have begun to gut the roster some. Especially at the important point guard position.

One more loss might be the biggest and most mysterious of them all.

Friday, Inside NU reports Northwestern had rescinded its offer of admission and the national letter of intent to Jordan Lathon. Lathon responded on Twitter, thanking coach Chris Collins and the Northwestern community for their support. It is not clear at this point why Lathon was unable to enroll at Northwestern.

https://twitter.com/j2lathon/status/1000145538745028608

Whatever the issues are — whether it was Lathon not meeting some requirement or Lathon deciding to go to a different school — everyone has to hope Lathon find the place and the situation that fits best for him — both on and off the court.

There will be an undoubted effect on the court for the Wildcats in losing this prized recruit.

Lathon was a four-star prospect from Grandview, Missouri. He was undoubtedly one of the best recruits — at least from the recruiting services — ever to come to Northwestern. The kind of player that only Chris Collins seemed capable of getting for this program. And, yes, a direct beneficiary of the Wildcats’ first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.

With Bryant McIntosh graduating and Isiah Brown transferring, Northwestern was thin at point guard. There seemed to be a very realistic chance Lathon would start this year. His departure leaves the Wildcats with just Jordan Ash and Anthony Gaines to play point guard. Both struggled to stay in the rotation last year.

That puts the Wildcats in a major bind on the court. The team is going to need someone to step up. And then eventually to find a long-term answer at the position — possibly in the upcoming recruiting class now that Lathon is gone.

It is hard to say a whole lot about Lathon’s situation. The reason he will not be attending Northwestern is unclear. All we know is Northwestern denied his admission for whatever reason.

And now Chris Collins will have to scramble to find a replacement or make due with what he has and hope someone steps up.

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Northwestern

Recruiting loss leaves Northwestern in a point guard bind

The Northwestern Wildcats struggled with their point guard depth last year, relying heavily on Bryant McIntosh. Now he is gone and a recruiting loss leaves a lot of questions at this critical spot.

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Northwestern Wildcats, Jordan Ash

The Northwestern Wildcats’ disappointing basketball season last year seemed like a blip on the road to consistent respectability. This was still a program and a team on the rise with a strong head coach, a renovated building and the budding confidence to assert itself.

Last year’s team — largely a run back of the previous year’s breakthrough NCAA Tournament team — never quite got itself off the ground. Perhaps everyone expected success to roll over easy. Maybe the team really missed the intangible tough qualities from graduating senior Sanjay Lumpkin. Maybe injuries were just too much to overcome.

It was not a good year. But optimism remains for 2019.

The Wildcats know they will have their work cut out for them in the debut of the new Welsh-Ryan Arena. They have veteran players like Vic Law and Dererk Pardon to anchor the team. But it has also been a summer of massive change for the program.

The team will be moving into the renovated Welsh-Ryan Arena at some point. But more importantly, the loss of seniors Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey leave a gaping hole for the program. Especially considering the other attrition from the roster — Rapolas Ivanauskas and Isiah Brown’s transfer.

If there was another contributing factor that no one spoke of that led to Northwestern’s difficult season, it was the poor development of young players, especially at guard.

Brown struggled to step into the role as the backup point guard, averaging 3.9 points per game and playing just 10.8 minutes per game. Freshman Anthony Gaines did not fare much better, averaging 4.0 points per game in 18.6 minutes per game.

McIntosh, even through injuries and his own shooting struggles, had to carry a heavy creation load for the team last year. He played 31.3 minutes per game for the season. And Lindsey and Law had to carry a heavy minutes burden too. Northwestern’s poor depth put a lot of strain on the team and it simply was not able to hold up.

That does not bode well with two of those heavy minute players gone. Their replacements are not particularly clear — although with a hopefully healthy Law, the team seems loaded on wings.

That is what made the pursuit of grad transfer Matt Mooney seemingly more important.

The South Dakota guard averaged 18.7 points per game and 3.1 assists per game while shooting 35.2 percent from beyond the arc. He is not going to completely change everyone’s fortunes, but he is clearly a capable scorer. And his recruitment in the grad transfer market was heated.

Northwestern already had a win in the grad transfer market with Ryan Taylor. But the team would not win this one. That will leave the Wildcats incredibly thin and uncertain at point guard.

That puts Northwestern in a tough spot at point guard.

Senior Jordan Ash, sophomore Anthony Gaines and incoming freshman Jordan Lathon are the only ball handlers on the roster now. Ash and Gaines have struggled in their time at Northwestern. Ash played only 11.3 minutes per game last year and has not taken that step forward.

Lathon is an intriguing prospect. He is a four-star prospect according to 247Sports and someone who could make an immediate impact. Freshmen can be fickle and unreliable, of course, but the Wildcats may not have any other options.

This is the hole the Wildcats will have to figure out heading into the season in November.

There is still a lot of time and Lathon and the other freshman have not arrived on campus. But Collins, despite winning the recruiting rankings relative to Northwestern, has not been as solid a player development coach as thought.

Ivanauskas was a celebrated recruit when he arrived in Evanston. Injuries kept him from making an impact in his first two years, but he is now gone from the program.

Law, the most celebrate recruit to arrive in Evanston, has had a solid career. He generated some NBA buzz, but it has been largely uneven too.

Collins may not have missed often enough to deter Northwestern’s seeming march forward. But there have been more than a few misses that have hurt the team’s depth.

A strong recruiting class with Pete Nance and Miller Kopp will add further depths on the wing. The Wildcats reaped the rewards from their NCAA Tournament appearance.

This should be a team in the hunt for the NCAA Tournament again in 2019. But it will only go as far as its point guard development can take it. If Lathon can make an immediate impact then Northwestern could again break through.

If he cannot, the losses in recruiting will stand out that much more.

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Northwestern

Northwestern Wildcats basketball seeks some punch in a grad transfer

The Northwestern Wildcats went to the transfer market to bolster their offense as the program tries to replace some key players and get back into the NCAA Tournament.

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Chris Collins, Northwestern Wildcats

The Northwestern Wildcats basketball season did not end how anyone would want it. The careers for Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey did not end how anyone wanted them to. This is not the how the team was supposed to follow up its breakthrough NCAA Tournament season.

After that season went away, attention quickly turned to how the Wildcats would make the new Welsh-Ryan Arena feel like home. Northwestern was losing a lot — McIntosh was essentially the team’s heart and soul. And there was an unusual amount of attrition with Rapolas Ivanauskas and Isaiah Brown.

The Wildcats return Victor Law and Dererk Pardon as the anchors for their team. They will need to see more from Anthony Gaines and likely from incoming freshman Jordan Lathon. The Wildcats have some serious holes as they try to bounce back from last year.

Chris Collins dug into the transfer market and hoped to find someone who can help the Wildcats take that next step.

Former Evansville wing Ryan Taylor will transfer to Northwestern as a graduate transfer. Taylor averaged 21.2 points per game and shot 42.1 percent from beyond the arc for Evansville last year. He scored 47 total points in two games against Loyola (Chicago) last year, but there is not a ton of high-level competition on his immediate resume.

Either way, adding the 6-foot-6 forward will help Northwestern replace some of the production lost from Scottie Lindsey. And seeing him pick Northwestern over some other big schools makes this a big get.

As Bryce Bennett of BT Powerhouse notes, this commitment is a big deal for Northwestern. Taylor adds some much-needed shooting something Lindsey struggled with last year.

The team will return Law and Pardon as the anchors from that tournament team. Collins has helped add some talented wing players. But his freshman have not been ready to contribute immediately. Adding in role players like Aaron Falzon and sitting transfer A.J. Turner could make the Wildcats a dangerous team again.

But things will have to come together for them again. In a way they did not last year despite all the pieces being in place. If Northwestern learned anything last year, it is that nothing is guaranteed. Getting back to the tournament will take a lot of work.

And talent alone will not get there. Nor will the expectation of getting there.

Northwestern still has some major holes to fill. With McIntosh gone, the point guard position still feels like an open competition heading into the summer. Northwestern will have experienced wings to help spread the floor. And the team will need Law more than ever to play consistently — he seemed to tire out as the season went on last year.

It is looking like Northwestern will have a lot of the pieces again to make a run. Assuming the team continues to grow and comes together — especially on defense.

Adding a transfer like Taylor will only add to that puzzle. It makes for a potentially exciting a potent offense for the Wildcats this coming season.

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