Northwestern didn’t match their shooting from Sunday’s game, but the Wildcats still delivered an impressive display of accuracy shooting ball in an 84-54 victory over North Florida.
What was perhaps most impressive in a game which NU expected to win and did so handily was the performance of center Luka Mirkovic. Mirkovic who has shown sporadic three point range at times in his career hit his first three threes of the season tonight. For a guy who hadn’t hit a three all year, and had only tried two, Mirkovic shot the ball with an easy confidence which makes me believe he could be a serious threat from behind the arc this year. For the night, Mirkovic scored a total of 13 points and set up other players with his excellent passing recording 8 assists.
If Mirkovic indeed proves to be a consistent shooter it will be almost impossible for teams to defend NU’s Princeton Offense. Tonight 4 of 5 NU starters hit at least one three. The only player who did not hit a three was John Shurna and although he has struggled recently, I am confident a shooting hot streak from Shurna is just around the corner.
I should also point out that Shurna did score 11 points tonight and did an overall solid job of finishing around the basket. He also grabbed 6 rebounds. I’m actually more concerned with Shurna’s somewhat inconsistent free throw shooting (he was 3-of-5 tonight) than I am about his three point shooting.
Michael “Juice” Thompson, Drew Crawford, Jeremy Nash, and Alex Marcotullio also finished in double figures from Northwestern. Crawford started hot by scoring NU’s first five points of the game and hitting two threes in the first half. He finished the game with 10 points. Thompson hit some big shots early as well and delivered in the first part of the second half as well before leaving for a well deserved rest of nearly 10 minutes. Before taking his break, Thompson scored 14 points and hit four threes. Jeremy Nash had his usual solid game defensively and also finished around the basket very well several times. Nash totaled 11 points. Marcotullio totaled 10 points and made two threes, though, his shot looked a tad off in the second half. Perhaps the best statistic from Marcotullio was that he recorded 5 steals. Although Jeremy Nash might NU’s best option atop the 1-3-1, I really like that Marcotullio can play that spot because it gives NU the chance to put Nash on the wing where he can anticipate passes and get more steals.
Moving down the NU bench a bit, I want to congratulate Reggie Hearn on the first five points of his career. Hearn even got in the NU’s three point act by hitting a long three of his own. Ivan Peljusic also got some extended minutes and had highlights in making a slick behind the back pass to setup a layup and hitting a three. If Davide Curletti’s ankle sprain is serious Peljusic will become a very important player.
The only major disappointments from tonight were NU’s early defense and Kyle Rowley’s continued struggles. NU needs to come out of the locker room with intensity on defense during their future games or contests could get ugly. Rowley needs to be able to finish around the basket when he is open and get off the ground going for layups and rebounds. It’s great he’s a big body, but when he doesn’t jump his height becomes something of a non-factor. It is critically important Rowley improve because NU cannot go with Luka Mirkovic for 40 minutes and Curletti’s status is uncertain.