The Wildcats are now 3-0 and their two road wins put them in position to exceed last year’s total of wins away from Welsh-Ryan. However, the fact is the Wildcats haven’t been impressive in their last two wins. Tonight, NU did play a little better on defense, but their offensive game play wasn’t sharp for the second game in a row. Of course, much of those troubles occurred in the second half when Coach Carmody used his bench for the majority of the period. In fact, the entire Wildcat roster saw action in tonight’s 71-45 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
I will say that I think we can safely say that NU will continue to get good production from their big three. Even with all three playing less than 30 minutes (which might not happen again all year) Drew Crawford and John Shurna each posted 17 points and Juice Thompson had an off night shooting (only 1-of-6 from three), but did score 11 and dish out five assists.
The fact is aside from defense, which again was a bit better, the key to NU living up to the hype is going to be finding production for players other than those three. Tonight, JerShon Cobb saw his first extended minutes and struggled on offense, but did post eight rebounds and three steals by jumping in passing lanes. That would almost be acceptable, but he does need to work on his one-on-one defense. I hope that is the result of his hip injury, but if it isn’t, I’d like to see more minutes from Jeff Ryan. He won’t likely offer as much offense, but he is one of the Wildcats best defenders.
To continue to beat a dead horse, NU also needs more from Luka Mirkovic. After two early baskets I thought Luka might be getting ready to assert himself, but he never even took another shot. He did get six rebounds, but he wasn’t exactly facing Jared Sullinger out there.
Defensively, NU played mostly the matchup zone. It worked better than it had earlier in the year, but there were also several moments where Arkansas-Pine Bluff schooled NU’s defenders. After the game Bill Carmody said defense will be the focus of practice starting Monday. With nine days off before the ‘Cats play their next game it will be interesting to see the payoff to that hard work.
Finally, I’ll end tonight’s post with a comment on the Carmody-Kevin Coble/Italy-Hawaii issue. Basically, I’m with Carmody on this. First off all, if you’re part of the team and the team is going on a trip you should go on the trip. Second, if the Coble really needed to continue therapy, I assume NU brought a trainer or two with them. Most importantly, though, since Coble apparently went to Hawaii, it basically seems like Coble misled SI.com in his interview earlier today. Like all NU fans, as someone who was a big supporter of Kevin for three years and who really respected his decision to leave the team when it seemed to be purely for health reasons, I’m somewhat disappointed. I mean I honestly don’t even have a problem with Coble leaving over the Italy conflict if he just didn’t want to go, but if he really went to Hawaii and didn’t stay in Evanston to finish his rehab then he basically lied to the press in order to make Carmody look bad and you can’t respect that.