Northwestern beat Creighton 65-52 on Sunday night to move to 4-0 for the first time since the ’93-94 season. That is the same year the Wildcats last won a postseason game when they defeated DePaul in the NIT. NU has bigger goals than the NIT this season and this win combined with the chance to get a victory Tuesday against Georgia Tech could help them reach those goals. Not surprisingly NU was led by John Shurna both in points and rebounds, but he wasn’t the only player to really step up today. Juice Thompson scored a season high 18 points and dished out 3 assists including an impressive alley-op feed to Shurna for Shurna’s third impressive slam of the night.
NU also got really good contributions off the bench from Davide Curletti, Mike Capocci, Jeff Ryan, and Alex Marcotullio. The only one of those guys who posted a real significant stat line was Curletti who scored 7 points and tied for a team high with 6 rebounds. It was great to see Curletti find a shooting touch hitting an early three and swishing two free throws. If NU gets shooting production from the five spot the offense will open up even more. Curletti also did do a respectable job defending the larger Kenny Lawson Jr. Capocci only scored two points, but was another Wildcat to really hit the boards hard and he helped the inside defense as well. If JerShon Cobb’s shots don’t start to fall with some regularity, I’d look for Coach Bill Carmody to use Capocci more as the season continues. Marcotullio and Jeff Ryan did their usual solid job defensively. They both played tough at the top of the 1-3-1 and made life tough for the Blue Jay offense. Marcotullio’s biggest play was to tip a pass on the play which allowed Drew Crawford a dunk to finish off the Wildcat victory.
Crawford actually had a really subpar game, but he did manage to score 7 points. The fact is that he will have much better games and probably will have one Tuesday night. We’ve become so use to having Juice, Shurna, and Crawford all play great, but the fact is that they all probably aren’t going to have great games every time out. It is an excellent sign that one of the big three can have an off night and the ‘Cats can still get a 13 point win.
Part of the reason for that double-digit win was NU’s improved defense in both the 1-3-1 and the switching man-to-man. In that switching-man it was an improved second half effort on Blue Jay star Kenny Lawson Jr. that really made a difference. After the game Bill Carmody credited Luka Mirkovic’s hard work on defense in the second half. I have to say that after a tough first half Luka really did step up on the defensive end. He still needs to get much better on offense and can’t miss late free throws like he did tonight and last year vs Wisconsin, but at least he stepped and didn’t get pushed around in the second half. Perhaps offensive improvement is the next step for Luka.
I’ll wrap up here for now and tomorrow look back a little more at this win and ahead to Tuesday’s big game vs Georgia Tech.