Northwestern Men’s Basketball off to Best Start in History
The Wildcats men’s basketball team from Northwestern are off to their best start in the school’s history, overtaking their previous best 12-1 start from the 1930-31 season. They’re the only school in a large conference to never make the NCAA Tournament in March. This could be the year that they change that if the team can keep up their rate of play. The downside of their record was the weak schedule against non conference teams early in the season. The second half of their schedule features games against conference powerhouses like Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State & Wisconsin. If the Wildcats can keep up their winning ways against the stronger teams in their conference, they will almost certainly punch their ticket for the NCAA Tournament. The tough remainder of regular season opponents won’t be the only obstacle to overcome for the Cats, the recent loss of center Alex Olah leaves voids to be filled on the glass & offensive end in the low post. Olah is averaging 12.8 points per game this season, a team-high 6.5 rebounds & 2 blocks while shooting 59.8% from the field. Redshirt freshman Dererk Pardon has shed the redshirt title to take a regular role in the team’s lineup in the absence of Olah & had 6 points with 4 rebounds in his debut against Loyola (MD). Joey van Zegeren & Dererk Pardon will split the starting center role while Olah nurses the stress fracture in his foot for the next few weeks.
On December 30, the Wildcats traveled to Omaha to face the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Former redshirt Dererk Pardon had a breakout performance, scoring 28 points & grabbing 12 rebounds (7 offensive) in the 81-72 win for the Cats. Pardon was quiet in the first half, but exploded in the second by scoring 23 of his 28 total points. Shooting guard Tre Demps added 17 points of his own while point guard Bryant McIntosh tallied 11 points & 8 assists. The win over Nebraska marked the Wildcats 10th win in a row & their best start in school history at 13-1.
The Wildcats got a wake up call on January 1 when they faced the top-5 ranked Terrapins from Maryland. Rasheed Sulaimon, a transfer from Duke, led the offense in the first half by shooting 5-5 from the field, while guard Melo Trimble scored a game-high 24 points for the Terps. Bryant McIntosh was the sole bright spot for the Wildcats, finishing with 17 points & 9 assists which wasn’t enough to keep them in the game. Dererk Pardon couldn’t replicate his break out performance from his previous game against Nebraska & only scored 8 points (4-of-5 shooting) with 6 rebounds, but was active on the low post which is an encouraging sign for Northwestern. The remainder of the Wildcats’ regular season schedule will be challenging, with home games against Ohio State, Wisconsin & Penn State. They also have to face Maryland again, this time on the Terps home floor. The Cats have their work cut out for themselves if they want to end their NCAA Tournament drought. Tickets for upcoming home games can be purchased here.