Sunday, January 4, 2009

Spartans Run Past 'Cats 77-66

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.


knickelbein5 said...

I think if this team plays as well as they did against Michigan state they have a chance to be a middle of the road big ten team maybe looking at 15??? wins

macarthur31 said...

I got a chance to catch that game -- I was impressed by MSU's ability to 1)make that extra pass, and 2)knock down that open jumper.

It was alot harder for our 'Cats to get our shot, as evidenced by 4-5 possessions which ended up with a Juice low-percentage three. Usually, our TO-generating defense can help out with that by getting us 10-12 points of transition baskets. Again -- this is where Sparty would not comply: they only had 13 TOs in the game (most of them in the final helter-skelter 5 minutes), and were able to get back on transition defense due to their athleticism and discipline.

Mirkovic looks more comfortable in the paint; Nash gave us good defensive minutes; and a Mike Capocci sighting! We've got 16 more games in conference, and I think we still got a shot to make some noise.

However, this game is another reminder that at best, the 'Cats are a second division team (5th-8th) in a rejuvenated B10.