Northwestern walked away from its exhibition contest Friday night against Illinois-Springfield with a predictable double-digit victory. Freshman guard Isiah Brown led the way with 18 points as the Wildcats topped the Prairie Stars 89-52.
With nonexistent stakes and a decided outcome from the opening tip, the game offered plenty of opportunities for coach Chris Collins to experiment with different lineups.
Dererk Pardon injury scares are not fun
The sophomore center looked good when in, scoring 12 points on 5-of-5 shooting and adding four rebounds and three blocks. But he also left the game in the second half limping and holding his leg after heading into the tunnel earlier. According to Collins, Pardon had taken a knee to the thigh and was tightening but was ultimately fine.
He and freshman Barret Benson — who played surprisingly sparingly in the exhibition — constitute the team’s extremely thin center tandem and an injury to either would be costly.
Scottie Lindsey and Gavin Skelly are set to have big roles …
Last season, playing time for the then-sophomores was largely dictated by team need. When the offense needed energy or an athlete on the perimeter, it subbed accordingly. This year, it appears as though the Cats intend to lean on the third year duo in a broader sense.
Lindsey started the exhibition and finished with 13 points, going 2-of-3 from deep. Skelly saw plenty of action, playing both the 5 in NU’s small ball set and the 4 alongside another big. He ran the floor nicely and spaced the floor well, despite scoring only six points.
… but Brown might be the biggest X-Factor of them all
The freshman’s trademark scoring ability was on full display. Brown shot the ball well from deep and attacked the basket with confidence. Perhaps his best play of the day came in transition when Brown maneuvered through defenders and finished an acrobatic layup.
He’ll be leaned on as a shot-creator in the same vein as Tre Demps and appears to have a substantial role within the offense. If he can continue to score efficiently and in loads against higher-caliber opponents, Brown has the potential to be one of the offense’s most dynamic players.
- Benson looked very raw in the limited action he saw. It’s expected — he is, of course, a freshman — but will need to develop better instincts given the role he is expected to assume.
- Vic Law (11 points) struggled out of the gate but found a rhythm late. After missing a chain of three-pointers, he finished the game connecting on a pair, hitting a jumper in between.
- Jordan Ash looks doomed to the bench yet again. Brown figures to run the offense when Bryant McIntosh sits.
- As for McIntosh, the newly-named captain struggled from beyond the arc, going 0-of-3 and scoring 11. The exhibition offered little evidence that the point guard took the next step, but it’s far too early to worry.