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Men’s Basketball: Notes from Northwestern’s exhibition rout of Illinois-Springfield

Men’s Basketball: Notes from Northwestern’s exhibition rout of Illinois-Springfield
(Daily file photo by Luke Vogelzang)

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.

Takeaways

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.

Other notes

  • 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.

Men’s Basketball: Freshman Rapolas Ivanauskas to miss 2016-17 season

Northwestern freshman forward Rapolas Ivanauskas will miss the 2016-17 men’s basketball season as he recovers from shoulder surgery, the program announced Monday.

In the press release, coach Chris Collins said he expects a full recovery in four to six months. It is likely that Ivanauskas will be redshirted to preserve his four years of eligibility.

Ranked No. 97 in the nation by Rivals in the 2016 recruiting class, the 6-foot-9 Illinois native was the Wildcats’ top rated recruit and was expected to bring a much-needed scoring presence to NU’s frontcourt. After spending three years at Barrington High School and receiving all-state recognition from several outlets following his junior season, Ivanauskas transferred to Brewster Academy in New Hampshire for his senior year.

The loss of the forward depletes NU’s post options as the team looks to replace the production of graduated center Alex Olah. Freshman center Barret Benson is now the only player on roster who stands above 6-foot-8, with sophomore Dererk Pardon, junior Gavin Skelly and senior Nathan Taphorn listed at 6-foot-8.

Men’s Basketball: 2017-2018 home games to be played in Allstate Arena during Welsh-Ryan renovations

Men’s Basketball: 2017-2018 home games to be played in Allstate Arena during Welsh-Ryan renovations
(Source: Northwestern Athletics)

One Northwestern team has found a home during renovations to Welsh-Ryan Arena, as the athletic department announced in a release Tuesday that the men’s basketball team will play its home games in the 2017-2018 at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois.

The arena, which is a half-hour or more drive from the Wildcats’ Evanston campus, is the current host of DePaul’s basketball teams. With the Blue Demons planning to move into a new downtown arena in the fall of 2017, NU will temporarily take their place as Allstate Arena’s college basketball tenant.

Athletic department spokesman Paul Kennedy said venue size and proximity to Evanston were major factors in the decision to move 2017-2018 home games to Allstate Arena, which seats roughly 18,500. Additionally, he said that the arena’s past experience hosting college basketball games and its ability to commit to a number of necessary open dates played a part in the decision.

Tuesday’s announcement did not discuss arrangements for game-day transportation for students to the arena. Kennedy said providing transportation from Evanston for students is a priority, but a plan to do so isn’t in place yet.

Additionally, Kennedy said that details about plans for the other teams displaced by the renovations, the women’s basketball, volleyball and wrestling teams, will be made public soon.

In June, the athletic department announced plans for a “complete renovation” of Welsh-Ryan Arena, slated to cost roughly $110 million and take place from the end of the 2016-2017 basketball season until the fall of 2018.

This post has been updated with comment from Paul Kennedy.

Big Ten announces Northwestern men’s basketball conference opponents

The final pieces of Northwestern men’s basketball’s 2016-2017 schedule are coming together, as on Monday the Big Ten announced the team’s conference home and road conference opponents.

The Wildcats will play both home and away games against Indiana, last season’s Big Ten regular-season champion who blew NU out in their lone matchup in Bloomington last year, as well as against in-state rival Illinois, Purdue, Nebraska and Rutgers.

After preparing a nonconference slate for next season that was panned for its difficulty, the Cats will need to look for quality wins in conference play if they want to stake a claim to a postseason berth. While projecting exactly how the Big Ten will look when the conference season rolls around is impossible, those games against the Hoosiers and Boilermakers, as well as a home date with Maryland and games at Michigan State and Wisconsin, look to be NU’s best chances to boost its resume.

As with pretty much any major-conference schedule, the Cats’ slate gives them ample opportunities to prove themselves against high-caliber opponents and face some difficult tests at home and on the road. Once the Big Ten releases the dates and times of each conference game, a better idea of the key games to circle on NU’s schedule will emerge.