EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — Ryan Young had 19 points and 12 rebounds, Pete Nance added 17 points and Northwestern overcame a slow offensive start for a 70-59 victory over Norfolk State on Friday night.
Miller Kopp had 11 points as Northwestern (2-2) bounced back from a 67-56 home loss to Radford on Tuesday.
“I thought we did a lot of good things, especially because we got down early,” coach Chris Collins said. “Down 10 early with a young team that’s been struggling, a lot of teams would have said, ‘Here we go again.’
“Our guys just rallied.”
Northwestern got off to a miserable offensive start — again — and fell behind 18-8 less than seven minutes into the game.
The Wildcats, though, turned the game around on the defensive end, holding Norfolk State scoreless for 6 minutes, 47 seconds, after Collins switched from a zone to man-to-man.
“I thought we were a little stagnant,” Collins said. “I thought they did a really good job to start the game attacking our zone and I felt like our energy needed a little boost.”
Jermaine Bishop had 24 points as Norfolk State (3-3) dropped its second straight. The Spartans just couldn’t maintain their early momentum.
“We focused on coming out and executing against the zone, because we felt like if they went man-to-man, it was to our advantage with our speed,” Norfolk coach Robert Jones said.
“When they went man-to-man, I think, we took it for granted a little bit because we weren’t attacking like we should attack and we were going into a lot of one-on-one stuff.”
Northwestern ran off 12 straight points and took its first lead, 20-18, on a 3-pointer by Kopp with just over seven minutes left in the first half.
Before Kopp’s basket, the Wildcats were 3 for 17 from the field, including 1 for 9 on 3-pointers.
Bishop snapped the scoring drought 30 seconds later with a 3-pointer to put the Spartans back on top, but Northwestern answered with five straight points — a 3 by Nance and a pair of free throws by Anthony Gaines — to regain the lead for good.
The Wildcats led 37-25 at halftime then scored the first four points of the second half for a 41-25 advantage. The closest Norfolk State got after that was 11 points.
“Switching to man helped us to get out in transition and that helped us to the line,” Young said.
Northwestern was 27 for 30 (90%) from the free-throw line, including 16 for 18 in the first half.
Norfolk State: The Spartans also led for the majority of the first half Tuesday at Bradley before struggling in the final 25 minutes of a 69-57 loss. Avoiding offensive droughts is a must to finish strong.
Northwestern: The way this season has started, any win is a cause for celebration. But it also should be a cause for concern that the Wildcats again came out tight against a lower-level Division I opponent. There’s no player seemingly willing to step up when the team desperately needs a basket.
GLASS HALF FULL
Northwestern was 19 for 56 (33.9%) from the field and 5 for 22 (22.7%) on 3-pointers, but Collins opted to look at the bright side.
“A lot of positives tonight, especially in a game where you shoot 33% and you win going away,” he said. “That says a lot about your team’s heart and toughness to buckle down and get a win.”
Norfolk State faces Caldwell Tuesday in the Fort Myers Tip-Off Tournament in Florida.
Northwestern faces Bradley Monday night in the Fort Myers Tip-Off.
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