I'm really enjoying telling my friends from other Big Ten schools (read: Illinois) how the Wildcats took care of their end of the deal in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge when six other Big Ten teams didn't. Those numbers translate into a 6-5 ACC win, but I'm pretty happy with the 'Cats win so I'll live with the Big Ten dropping the challenge for the tenth straight season.
As far as NU’s win, there were so many good things it is impossible to mention them all. Lindsay Willhite does a nice job breaking down a number of them, though, in this write up. Also, Lake the Posts has an interesting post about NU hoops and what it will be like when NU makes the NCAA Tournament. Take a look here for that.
My favorite thing about last night was the feeling of an intensity in Welsh-Ryan Arena which has been lacking many times in recent years. The students did a great job and I hope they show up on Saturday for their last chance to see the ‘Cats before break. It wasn’t just the students who made noise, though. I thought the whole NU crowd was excellent and I think it made a difference. I especially enjoyed the standing ovation for Ivan Peljusic after his fantastic run in the second half.
Craig Moore was outstanding and I think he really is taking on a leadership role. He even wanted to talk to the ref after Carmody T until Coach C yelled out to Craig, “Don’t talk to him (the ref).” Also of interest was the fact Moore played 40 minutes. Admittedly there isn’t a great backup option for him right now, but I do worry about fatigue if he has to play a full game regularly. Everybody else has someone, or a couple someones, who can be rotated in. I’d like Nick Fruendt to step up as Moore’s backup, but he’s clearly not ready yet. Until he is, Moore going to get a lot of playing time. Let’s hope his level of intensity doesn’t change as it was that which I believe helped drive the ‘Cats to victory.
I also want to mention my favorite play last night besides the Peljusic slam was John Shurna getting a tip in put back late in the game. That play gave Shurna 13 offensive rebounds this year which leads the team. It has been a long time since Northwestern’s roster has featured anybody who could get an offensive rebound, this year the team has several. It gives the Wildcats a totally different dimension which should seriously help the ‘Cats in Big Ten play.
Finally, I want to give a major thumbs up to Coach Bill Carmody. This might have been the best game he’s coached at Northwestern. He wasn’t afraid to adjust his plan on the fly and he seemed to know just what he needed to do to fire up his team. The technical and his apparently fiery halftime speech seemed to fire up the Wildcats at just the right time. Also, he used a variety of defenses including putting in Jeremy Nash to run a 1-3-1 when early on it seemed Florida State was easily able penetrate the matchup 2-3 zone with Juice and Moore up top. I also want to note that when Juice came back in during the second half and NU returned to the matchup his defensive play along with that of Craig Moore was some of best I’ve seen from NU in several years.