Do not adjust your computer screen: Northwestern thoroughly blew out a Big Ten opponent Saturday afternoon at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The ‘Cats (13-14, 4-10) won by three touchdowns, 60-39, over the Penn State Nittany Lions (15-13, 3-12). It’s their third straight win following a 10-game losing streak, which is becoming smaller and smaller in NU’s rearview mirror.
The win was punctuated by a coming-out party of sorts from freshman forward Vic Law, who led all scorers with 17, and with 11 rebounds secured his first collegiate double-double. Coach Chris Collins said Law’s performance in the last two games have been meaningful considering how much he has struggled this season.
"He came to Northwestern with a lot of unwarranted expectations, but he wanted that," Collins said. "He kept working tirelessly on his game with the coaches and has done a lot of work on his skills. No one believes in him like I do, and he believes in me and the program. He's been a young player trying to find his way, [but] he has been huge for us the last two games.”
Law said his late season renaissance is a testament to the extra work he’s started putting in, and that he and the team have been playing more focused of late.
"I'm just getting used to college basketball," Law said. "There's been a lot of improvement in my pre-game preparation. My mindset has changed, and I'm taking things more seriously in practice. There isn't too much room to play like a freshman; I have to act older than what I am and learn the process. My preparation is at an all-time high now.”
The ‘Cats shot 46 percent from the field while the Nittany Lions shot just 27.3 percent, and they went most of the first half without making a two-point field goal.
That didn’t matter for Penn State in the early going, as they hit four of their first five three-pointers to grab a 12-3 lead five minutes into the game. But the ‘Cats responded with a 25-8 extended run over the rest of the half, taking a comfortable 28-20 lead to the locker room.
NU opened the second half on an 8-2 run to open up a 14-point lead as two full student sections at Welsh-Ryan descended into hysteria. PSU clawed its way back to 38-34 with a 12-2 run of its own with 11 minutes left, but a Law corner three off a half-court bounce pass from freshman Bryant McIntosh put the ‘Cats up 44-34 with 8:54 remaining. They never looked back, finishing off the win on a 22-5 extended run.
Northwestern will get three days off before it welcomes the Indiana Hoosiers to Welsh-Ryan Arena. If NU can reel off three wins in its last four games, there is a decent chance that it would be in consideration for a postseason tournament like the NIT, CBI or CIT. Collins said the ‘Cats need to finish strong.
"We still have a lot of play for,” Collins said. “We believe we can be in contention for the postseason.''