Northwestern actually played pretty well against Michigan State except for a 5 minute stretch at the start of the second half in which Northwestern only got one shot in 6 possessions. That allowed MSU go on a 12-0 spurt which ended NU's chance to win a game the 'Cats led 33-32 at half. The positive thing is that except for those five minutes, NU probably played better against MSU than they did against Penn State. Unfortunately, Michigan State is an excellent team and you have no chance to beat them unless you play at a high level the entire game. In fact, in the Big Ten, NU will need to play forty minutes to beat anybody, with the possible exception of Indiana.
One major positive from last night was the play of Luka Mirkovic. He scored nine points and had three assists with no turnovers. Kyle Rowley actually started the game with some good baskets for NU, but he looked tired and missed two easy layups late in the first half. Rowley also looked majorly indecisive early in the second when he got the ball in the post and traveled. I will also say the Mike Capocci had some nice minutes and it will be interesting to see if he gets more playing time. This could help, because last Jeff Ryan really struggled, returning to his frightened self instead of the aggressive player he had become earlier in the year.
On the negative side, NU still struggled rebounding, though, the effort was better than against Penn State (NU got 10 offensive boards vs MSU). Michigan State is also the most athletic team NU will face this year. NU should matchup better against the other top Big Ten teams because Wisconsin and Purdue do not have the athletic monsters of Raymar Morgan, Kalin Lucas, Goran Suton, Delvon Roe, etc. Unfortunately, NU once again shot poorly from three point range going 9-of-29, 31%. This is a serious problem. Some people wanted to call NU’s shooting against PSU an aberration, however, I worry that it is the better Big Ten opponents who are forcing NU into shooting struggles. If NU really is a good shooting team, they are due for a hot shooting night soon (please at Wisconsin) as they’ve struggled in their last three contests (SMU, PSU, MSU). Hopefully we’ll see that against Wisconsin. If not, it will be a long season as Northwestern must hit threes to win. Hopefully, at lest Craig Moore (4-of-11) Kevin Coble (2-of-7) will shoot better as the season continues. They have a track record which proves they can. Northwestern desperately needs Kevin Coble to have a game where he gets sizzling hot if they want to pull some big upsets.