Obviously the best thing you can say about tonight’s game is that Northwestern beat previously 4-1 UC-Riverside and moved themselves to 4-1. The performance was somewhat underwhelming with the ‘Cats turning the ball over 16 times and shooting only 20% from three point range. Kevin Coble led Northwestern with 14 points and added five rebounds, but his points came rather quietly. Perhaps Coble’s 1-of-5 three point shooting performance was to blame, but it seemed Kevin wasn’t really himself tonight. That has to be worrisome for Bill Carmody as Coble wasn’t particularly impressive at Brown and struggled mightily at Butler. If Coble doesn’t get a littler more consistent, Northwestern has no chance against 7-0 Florida State on Wednesday.
Another player who struggled on Monday was Luka Mirkovic. This is unfortunate as many suspected Mirkovic would be the most significant contributor of the freshmen class. Based on the interest other big name BCS schools had in Luka, I suspected he’d make much more of an instant impact. However, he seems very tentative and uncertain thus far. If he doesn’t start hitting some shots and avoiding fouls I think Ivan Peljusic will steal more of his minutes.
On the positive side at the center position Kyle Rowley scored 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting. I’m impressed with Rowley thus far. He is more than just big. He runs the court well and his nice touch on his hook shot. Considering the size advantage he’ll have over virtually everybody, he should be able to score off that hook on a regular basis. The only negative from today’s game on Rowley’s line was his four turnovers. To some extent, though, I don’t think that can all go on Rowley. His teammates need to make sure they get the big man the ball where he can handle it.
Another freshman who played well overall tonight was John Shurna. Shurna struggled early on, but to his credit he came back strong and basically put UC-Riverside away when the Highlanders closed the ‘Cat lead to 11 late. Shurna scored on a nice backdoor pass from Ivan Peljusic and then made a spectacular play in which he blocked a shot, picked up the ball, and took it in for an easy layup. Defiantly highlight film stuff.
An overall positive was the defensive play of the Wildcats. Coach Carmody used a variety of defensives, including some very solid man-to-man, to hold the Highlanders to only 43 points. Especially impressive was the Wildcats effort on UC-Riverside leading scorer Javon Borum who scored only 4 points in 27 minutes.
The ‘Cats only have a day to practice before they play on Wednesday night. Some people would say that’s not a good thing, but I think it might work in the ‘Cats favor. Although they didn’t play great tonight, they won. The win makes the ‘Cats 4-1 overall and 4-0 at home. I think Northwestern’s freshmen, especially Shurna, have a lot more confidence at home. Hopefully that confidence will translate into forward momentum and solid play. Also, I believe the ‘Cats used tonight to work on some of the stuff they’ll want to use against the ‘Noles. Florida State is reported to be somewhat vulnerable to pressure and tonight the ‘Cats effectively used a 2-2-1 press to create a number of turnovers. Hopefully a similar game plan will have similarly positive results on Wednesday night.