Sunday, January 18, 2009

Wildcats upset #18 Gophers 74-65

The Wildcats were ready for Minnesota on Sunday

After a tough loss on Thursday night, the Wildcats put together an impressive mental and physical effort to top Minnesota 74-65 at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Sunday afternoon. Much of the credit has to go to Craig Moore who aside from 22 points (6-of-9 3PT) also showed great leadership throughout the game. At one point Moore even got in his teammates faces after they mishandled Minnesota’s 1-2-2 trap. Moore finally seemed to be the guy I was looking for who said, “enough is enough” and made the mental decision to play with a mental and physical toughness many Wildcats have lacked during the past few seasons. His teammate Jeremy Nash also brought an impressive level of intensity playing great defense for the second straight game. Nash is a game changer with his ability to get steals (3 today) and just simply disrupt the other team’s offense rhythm. I was also pleased to see him take a breakaway and JAM the ball. I hope some of his teammates take a lesson from him.

Overall, Northwestern shot 47.8% for the game and 59.1% in the second half. Much of the reason for this high percentage with the Wildcats ability to get layups off their offense and, for the first time in this year’s Big Ten season, consistently finish them. While therewere a few misses (Michael Thompson) and some scary makes (Ivan Peljusic) the ‘Cats finished more plays than they had in a long while. This ability to finish or get fouled made the difference. Unlike the Purdue game where missed layup and free throws allowed the Boilermaker comeback, today NU kept Minnesota at arms length with consistent play near the hoop and 78% free throw shooting. Extra credit at the line has to go to Kevin Coble who was 9-of-9 that was big as Coble struggled from the field (5-of-13 overall, 1-of-5 3PT). One slight issue is Michael Thompson who made only 1-of-4 free throws. The point guard needs to do better, especially since NU doesn’t really have a clear backup for Thompson who can handle pressure as well.

Another area of note was the play of NU’s front line against the large Minnesota post players. NU’s combo of Kyle Rowley, Luka Mirkovic, and Ivan Peljusic played very well. Mirkovic was especially solid grabbing 5 rebounds and playing tough defense inside. Minnesota only out-rebounded NU by two. Credit for that goes to all of NU’s front court players and Jeremy Nash who led NU with 6 rebounds. Another player of note for NU was Ivan Peljusic who also played well on defense and although he didn’t get big rebound numbers, he did occupy space. Rowley only played ten minutes, and although he did some good things, some weaknesses also were exposed. He needs to go up strong. Early on he was rejected when he tried a one hand finger- roll layup. He needs to use his size to his advantage both on offense and defense. At times Rowley is a small 7-0 feet because he doesn’t jump quick and tries to play more of a finesse game. I think Rowley can improve on this with a little more aggressive approach and probably getting into slightly better shape.

Finally, let me I was very impressed with NU’s defensive game plan. NU played some brief man-to-man, used the 2-3, and finally settled in with the 1-3-1 once it looked as if Nash was on the court to stay. This is the type of game plan NU needs. The ability to change defenses and give teams another look really makes it much tougher for teams to prepare for NU. Against Michigan State, I hope to see a similar variety of defenses.


John said...

I put some notes about this game on Chicago College basketball,, but I was more excited to see NU get a win than anything else. Nash played a great game. He really did everything.

One more defense I wish Northwestern would add is the press. It's not difficult to go from a press into a 1-3-1 and if/when Nash, Ryan and Williams are on the floor together it would work great / maybe get some easy baskets.

Great win though!

Ryan said...

You make good points. I think a press would be nice, but I wonder if NU's lesser athleticism makes Carmody worry about what might happen so he sticks with the trapping 1-3-1 and sometimes picks up full court.

Lunker 35 said...

Why don't we ever have our big men under the basket while shooting free throws? We aren't automatic at the line, therefore we should have our big men there for a possible offensive rebound.

Great game today though! Moore, Pulusic, and Nash play with such passion! Hopefully this team has disappointed us for the last time.