While Northwestern fans wasted no time enjoying all of the amenities that a $110 million arena renovation delivers, the Wildcats made them wait until the second half to start the celebration as they gradually pulled away for an 82-52 victory over New Orleans on Thursday night in Evanston, Ill.
Graduate transfer guard Ryan Taylor, who paced the Missouri Valley Conference in scoring last year at Evansville, hit 6 of 11 3-point tries en route to a game-high 20 points. Senior forward Vic Law added 18 points, six rebounds and five assists and scored his 1,000th career point as the Wildcats (1-0) eventually snapped out of their shooting woes in their first game at the new Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Freshman Gerrale Gates paced New Orleans (1-1) with 10 points and five rebounds. The stubborn Privateers never led, but they pulled within 46-39 on junior guard Bryson Robinson’s 3-pointer with 11:56 to play.
That’s when the Wildcats took control. Sophomore guard Anthony Gaines’ acrobatic layup in transition capped a 9-2 run that forced New Orleans to take a timeout with 9:47 to go.
The timeout didn’t slow Northwestern as Taylor kept raining 3-pointers, Boston College transfer A.J. Turner (11 points) kept drawing fouls and the Wildcats held the Privateers without a field goal for more than six minutes down the stretch.
The final 10 minutes looked much like the first five as Northwestern christened its new floor by racing out to an 8-0 lead. Top 100 freshman forward Miller Kopp hit a jumper, then Law canned a 3-pointer and Taylor added his first 3-pointer as a Wildcat.
The Wildcats carried that eight-point lead into the break, leading 36-28 at the half as they kept trying to pull away but the Privateers kept sneaking back into the game.
Northwestern pushed its lead to 29-16 with 5:50 to play when Law drained his third 3-pointer of the half, but sophomore guard Damion Rosser’s putback of senior forward Scott Plaisance’s missed free throw pulled UNO within 34-28 with 1:11 left.
—Field Level Media