Craig Moore led NU with 17 points in tonight's win at Indiana.
Northwestern got their 15th win of season tonight at Indiana making history in two ways. First, Northwestern won at Assembly Hall for the first time ever. Second, with their 15th win this means Northwestern will at least finish .500. The .500 record means NU has a great chance to make a postseason tournament of some variety for the first ten in 10 years as long as they post at least one more win. Tomorrow Welsh-Ryan Ramblings will assess NU’s postseason chances in detail.
As far as tonight’s game, the Wildcats placed four players in double figures and used a strong second half performances from the star trio of Craig Moore, Kevin Coble and Michael “Juice” Thompson to turn a five point half time lead into a 22-point victory. Although Indiana isn’t a strong team, NU’s ability to turn a big lead into a bigger lead is a huge step forward for a team who has struggled to hold leads. The fact it happened on the road makes it even more important. The game seemed to turn when IU cut the NU lead to 2 points, but Tom Crean then decided to play zone after his team was beat backdoor by Kevin Coble (10 points overall, 8 second half) twice. When that happened, NU found the gaps in the zone and Craig Moore (17 points, 5-of-7 threes) started drilling threes. NU’s ability to hit threes against the zone has helped the ‘Cats in their last two wins. It also gives NU hope to beat Ohio State on the road, unless Thad Matta does what he did against Penn State and surprises the world by coming out in a man-to-man defense.
As noted above Kevin Coble scored 8 points in the second half. Coble’s eight points in the second half seemed to complement John Shurna who scored 11 points, but got the majority of his points in the first half. Speaking of Coble, what he did even better than score in the second half was pass When surrounded by two and three guys in the post, Coble needs to pass out to the open shooters. At times he struggles with this because he is a score first type of player. However, his ability to find Juice Thompson on the perimeter for open shots helped NU end multiple Hoosier runs. Thanks to Coble’s great passing Thompson hit 2-of-3 treys and scored a total of 16 points, including 6-for-6 from the free throw line down the stretch. He also had 5 assists.
Another NU player who deserves note is Luka Mirkovic. Luka seemed fully recovered from his illness tonight. He made 4-of-7 shots scoring 8 points, grabbing 7 rebounds, and dishing out 2 assists. He displayed a nice touch on several jump shots and made a nice up and under move on which he showed great feet. Kyle Rowley was the bright spot in NU’s loss at Minnesota, but Mirkovic is by far the best option for NU at center right now. Rowley is fantastic when he doesn’t think, but tonight he reverted to the form where he has to over think his moves and reacts a step slow. Luka was the opposite. He almost seemed to be a step ahead of people at times tonight. His pass on an over the top backdoor to Coble was as good as any pass by a guard. It seems Northwestern hasn’t had Rowley and Mirkovic play well at the same time this year. Hopefully, they will surprise and play well at the same time down the stretch. NU will face solid inside talent against Purdue and Ohio State and Iowa dominated NU on the boards in Iowa City despite their relative lack of size.