By Mike Marut
In their season opener against McKendree University, Northwestern showed off its new freshmen and high-octane offense in a 102-52 victory.
Freshmen Bryant McIntosh, Vic Law, Johnnie Vassar, Gavin Skelly and Scottie Lindsey put the pedal to the metal in the game. The Freshmen Five have taken well to the coach Chris Collins high speed offense combining for 50 points for NU. Not only could they score, they were able to move the ball well and make plays. Especially in the first half, the Cats proved they could pass only giving up three turnovers while notching 18 assists.
McIntosh led the freshmen in scoring with 15 points as well as led the team in assists with 11. Overall, the freshman pointguard came out as a strong candidate for leader of the NU squad.
“My role is kind of to run the team,” McIntosh said. “A pointguard’s job is to get us in the offense, and create for myself or others. If I have an opportunity to score, then that’s what I have to do for my team. If I see an opportunity for a teammate, I’ve got to create and get them the ball.
Also getting the job done on the floor was Law. After throwing down the first dunk of the season, he went on to score eight more points, a team-high three steals and four rebounds. Law has seen himself as a utility player in Collins’s offense, and on Friday, he played that role perfectly. He was able to create space, find open teammates to rotate the rock, and make plays when that was his only option.
Not only did Collins recognize the leadership of the freshmen and development of his team, but so did senior Jershon Cobb. Cobb saw the immediate impact of the newcomers was able to capitalize on that impact. Because of the freshmen filling playmaker roles, Cobb can “go back to (his) natural position at the two” guard which opens up scoring opportunities and playmaking opportunities more so than last season.
“It helps me be more of a scorer,” Cobb said. “There’s really no need for me to play point(guard) a lot. We’ve got (McIntosh), (Dave Sobolewski) and Johnny (Vassar).
As much as fans were impressed with the ‘Cats’ play Friday night, Collins was even more impressed and excited about the freshmen. They stepped up immediately, in Collins’ opinion, and will lead the team to great heights. Last season, NU had to rely on its defense to get the team through tough scoreless stretches, in Collins’s eyes the team will no longer need to rely so heavily on their defense.
“This is a team with different guys who can score the basketball,” Collins said. “We have a lot of shooters, a good inside presence, and we’re going to be one of these teams where, on a different day, you’re going to have a different leading scorer. … When you can shoot and score, it allows your defense a little bit more margin for error and that’s what we didn’t have last year. We had droughts, seven, eight minutes in games we couldn’t score. It put so much pressure on our defense to save the day.”