EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — With shots not falling for Northwestern on the perimeter, Ryan Young took over the game inside.
Young had career-highs with 25 points and 12 rebounds, Pat Spencer had 15 points and Northwestern overcame a sluggish offensive performance for a 72-54 victory over SIU-Edwardsville on Sunday.
Young, a redshirt freshman, was 11 for 15 from the field in topping his previous high of 19 points against Norfolk State last month.
Overall, the Wildcats (5-4) were 26 for 64 (40.6%) from the field, including 3 for 19 on 3-pointers.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well,” NU coach Chris Collins said. “We didn’t shoot it well from 3, we didn’t shoot it particularly well from the free throw line, but I thought we shared it, our defense was solid most of the night and a point of emphasis was to get the ball inside. I thought Ryan Young was fantastic.”
Zeke Moore had 18 points to lead SIU-Edwards (2-8).
Northwestern was playing without starter Pete Nance, who was serving a team-issued one-game suspension for “failure to adhere to program standards.”
The sophomore forward is averaging 11.9 points and 7.5 rebounds this season. He had 14 points and six rebounds in the Wildcats’ 58-44 loss last week at Purdue.
The Wildcats had a slim 31-25 halftime lead mainly because they couldn’t find any consistency on the offensive end — especially from beyond the 3-point arc where they were 2 for 10.
At the start of the second half, Northwestern put together its best offensive stretch to that point with a 16-6 run in the first five minutes to open a 47-31 lead.
But then the Wildcats suddenly went cold again and were held scoreless for 3:16 as SIU-Edwardsville ran off eight straight to make it 47-39.
“I liked where it was at times,” Cougars coach Brian Barone said of his team’s defense. “We did a pretty good job of switching defenses on makes and misses. I thought our transition defense really hurt us on some key moments of the game, though.”
Young ended the drought with a basket inside with 11:46 to play. Shamar Wright answered with a 3-pointer at the other end to trim the lead to seven, but the Wildcats then ran off the next nine points for a 58-42 edge with just under seven minutes to go.
“As one of the young guys on the team, I feel like I challenge myself personally to bring energy to games like this,” Young said. “As a team, we’re inexperienced and we’re young and you can fall into that trap of not bringing energy in games that people view as not big games.”
SIU-Edwardsville: The Cougars had one of their better efforts of the season, especially on the defensive end. The difference was they had no answer for Young inside.
Northwestern: For whatever reason, the Wildcats have struggled against lower-level Division I programs, and this game was no exception. They just don’t seem to play loose and free when facing a team they are expected to beat.
UNDER THE WEATHER
Miller Kopp, who entered leading Northwestern in scoring at 12.1 points, was held scoreless (0-for-3 shooting) in 20 minutes. “I give him credit for coming out,” Collins said. “He has not felt well for a few days.”
Regardless of the opponent, Collins was happy to survive the Wildcats’ first game after exam week.
“This is always a difficult game to play on the heels of final exams,” he said. “Our practice time is a little bit limited and when you do practice, you’re a little bit fried mentally because of all the work you’re doing.”
SIU-Edwardsville at Winthrop on Tuesday.
Northwestern hosts No. 16 Michigan State on Wednesday night.
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