Friday, December 31, 2010

Purdue’s Hot Shooting and Defense Too Much for Wildcats

This game seemed very similar to NU’s game at St. John’s earlier this month. NU scored what I would generally consider enough points to win, but didn’t play great defense or get enough production from their main offensive weapons. I will say on the positive side that Luka Mirkovic rebounded from a poor first half to score 16 points and make his first to threes of the season. However, his one (1!) rebound wasn’t really all that helpful when his counterpart JaJuan Johnson of Purdue had nine. Another positive for NU was the play of JerShon Cobb who continues to show he isn’t overcome with fear of playing in the big time as he scored 12 points and had 3 assists. I would have liked to see Cobb make a couple threes because I know he can and that will help NU long term. Speaking of threes, for the day NU hit 9 threes, though, one was a useless garbage time bucket by Juice Thompson (18 points, but five costly turnovers against just two assists). Nine threes is generally good, but Coach Carmody has said NU needs at least 10 a game to compete in the Big Ten and the Wildcats obviously didn’t hit that mark today. I’d honestly say that NU probably needs more like 12 a game if they don’t start to play better defense.

Defense and rebounding are weak points that if they aren’t improved make me worry that NU won’t be any better than a 7-11 Big Ten as they were last season. Today the ‘Cats gave up 42 points in the first half and 40 in the second half. To compete they need to reduce those numbers by 10 each. They also need to find a defense that works, they couldn’t stick with Purdue in any defense today whether 1-3-1 zone or matchup Purdue found seams. It’s also, to me at least, ridiculous that E’Twaun Moore, Purdue’s only consistent shooter, found himself open for some many uncontested jump shots. Also, Purdue out NUed NU today with great passing against the zone and has assists on 18 of their 25 field goals. In addition, the ‘Cats were outrebounded 41 to 27 and 14 to 9 in offensive boards. While you have to give credit to Drew Crawford for getting 10 rebounds, the center position got just Luka’s one.

While I had to praise Crawford’s rebounding, I’d say his offensive lack of production played a role in NU’s loss. He mustered just three points on 1-of-6 shooting and 1-of-2 free throws. He needs to produce for NU to win and now hasn’t had a good game from behind the arc since his big game vs St. Francis. The positive in the up and down rhythm of Drew Crawford that probably means a big game is coming vs Sparty Monday night. John Shurna didn’t do much either on offense or defense, but I honestly think he was still pretty hurt and I almost wonder why he even played. He especially looked bad a couple times chasing the play when everyone else got back on defense after a missed shot and he seemed to be 10 feet behind the other nine players on the court. Still, I think NU could have won this game and in terms of looking at production from NU’s big three that ‘Cats were more hurt by Juice Thompson’s five turnovers than Crawford’s no-show or Shurna’s ankle based woes. In NU’s two losses this year Thompson has struggled to take care of the ball and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Today, Thompson committed a couple turnovers when NU was making a run in the second half and Purdue cashed in for threes which pretty much ended the game. Juice is NU’s most valuable player and as much as I like John Shurna and Drew Crawford, NU is going to win or lose games based on how Thompson plays. If he can rebound for NU’s next two contests I wouldn’t count an upset as out of the question vs Michigan State or Illinois.

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