The Wildcats certainly didn’t let Wilbon down.
The men’s basketball team faced off against Binghamton on Friday evening to close out an opening four-game homestand for Northwestern. The Wildcats (3-0) dominated the Bearcats (1-3) early and cruised to a 82-54 win thanks to a strong team performance. Ahead of the match, NU graduate Michael Wilbon and BU alumni Tony Kornheiser hosted a live taping of ESPN’s popular Pardon the Interruption show. The co-hosts were the game’s special analysts.
Northwestern wasted no time setting the tone for the game. The Wildcats opened on a 9-0 run to start and never looked back, eventually building a 29-point lead into halftime. The team’s pace slowed midway during the second half, and the ‘Cats even went over four minutes without scoring at one point. Despite their gaps in performance, the win was secured thanks to their earlier dominance. Binghamton shot just 21.9 percent from the field in the first half, and had both turnover and foul trouble throughout the game.
“It got a little sloppy at the end of the game,” head coach Chris Collins said. “That’s part of it. I wanted my young guys to play. They need minutes, they gotta get out there. So even though [Binghamton] made a little run and made some shots, it was valuable minutes for those guys going forward ’cause we’re gonna need everybody.”
Several Wildcats had particularly impressive performances on the night, with five players putting up double-digit points. Vic Law led the ’Cats with 14 points, and A.J. Turner had 13 with 11 coming in the first half. Barret Benson impressed with a double-double off the bench and career-highs in both points (12) and rebounds (14). He did mention, however, that he was not “locked in” before the game.
“I told myself, 'All right, you’ve gotta focus ‘cause Dererk [Pardon]’s gonna get some fouls in the first half and you’re gonna play a lot,’" Benson said, "and I was like, ‘Nah, it’s not gonna happen.’ And then it happened, and luckily I was ready.”
Northwestern’s entire squad contributed to the win against the Bearcats. All ten players who stepped onto the court played at least 9 minutes, with bench players and first-years getting substantial game time.
“Those are important minutes for [the bench players and freshmen],” said Collins, “and I wanted them to understand that, especially the freshmen. You look at a score and you think, ‘Oh, it’s the last eight minutes,’ and those are valuable minutes early in a career.”
Before the game, the long-running ESPN program Pardon the Interruption taped segments in Welsh-Ryan arena in support of the co-hosts’ alma-maters. The event was free for students, who were featured in the background behind the anchor desk.
The team will next take on Fresno State on Nov. 22 in the bracket-style Wooden Legacy Tournament in Fullerton, California.