Kevin Coble struggled initially on Monday night scoring only 6 points in the first half. In the second half, though, Coble shook off the post-finals rust to make four three pointers and essentially win the game for Northwestern. In total, Coble scored 22 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. His numbers were almost matched by his fellow starting forward John Shurna who scored 20 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. In comparing the two players’ stats, one should note that Coble played 37 minutes and Shurna only 28. Also, Shurna had 3 assists, but also 3 turnovers. Coble had one of each.
The number of minutes played by NU’s big three (Thompson, Moore, Coble) in this game is the stat which interests me the most. They played 38, 37, and 37 minutes respectively. This is the first time in awhile that all three logged more than 35 minutes apiece. To some extent this might have to do with this game staying relatively close for longer than the ‘Cats previous contests, however, I’m still surprised. The only other time Coach Carmody didn’t use his bench much (or at all) was against Butler and we all know how that turned out. I have to admit that when we reached the under 12:00 timeout in the second half and Carmody hadn’t yet subbed in the half I was having unpleasant flashbacks. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that Thompson, Moore, and Coble are NU’s best players, but I’d still like to see Sterling Williams and Jeremy Nash log more than 7 minutes total. Mike Capocci, who at times has been first off the bench, didn’t play at all.
I especially like Nash and think he could rotate in for both Moore and Thompson in short stretches. Obviously, you don’t want to take all of your big three (or even both guards) out at the same time, but this is the deepest team NU’s had in recent memory and I’d like to take advantage of that fact. Not only do we want our guys to be fresh at the end of games, but we want them fresh at the end of February. Playing 37 minutes against UMKC doesn’t necessarily assist in the second goal. Plus, if Craig Moore isn’t shooting well it wouldn’t hurt to get Nash or Williams in to play defense for a bit longer. The potential negative of such a choice is the loss of Moore’s leadership, but I think people underestimate how good of a floor game Nash plays. Also, I really think his shot is looking a lot better, but that might be more hope than fact.
One other interesting stat was the center position play. Kyle Rowley checked in today with 21 minutes played. This was by far Kyle’s best effort at not committing silly fouls and not being sluggish with his feet. He moved much better tonight on defense and actually made a nice drive to the hoop at the end of the first half. He missed the shot (Nash got a put back) but it showed how much athletic skill Kyle really has. No reason exists for him to get dumb fouls. He just needs to learn, as many freshmen do, that he needs work hard and focus at all times. Rowley also grabbed 4 rebounds double what he averages.
NU’s only other center to play tonight was Ivan Peljusic. Peljusic led the team with 3 blocks (tied with Coble) and 2 steals. As I’ve said before, I like Peljusic’s play a ton. He energizes the team. It was his steal and dunk early in the first half which seemed to remind his teammates they were actually playing basketball again and not still stuck in library studying for finals.
One element I’d like to see more is three point shooting from NU’s center. I think that would open things up for Moore and Coble even more. Peljusic seems to have a nice shot, but doesn’t want shoot if he misses his first. The guy who was supposed to fill that role was Luka Mirkovic, hopefully he continues to develop and finds a role in the rotation with the other big guys.
Finally, when was the last time NU had two dunks in the same game? Coble’s slam on the backdoor pass from Ryan and Ivan’s breakaway dunk were both highlight film worthy.
Next up for NU is a game at Stanford on Saturday. I’ll have more on that later this week. This week I’ll also have a commentary on why I think it’s important Juice Thompson score more often. His 17 points and 3-of-6 three point shooting certainly helped today.