It wasn’t perfect, but the result was. Northwestern used just enough three point shooting and the surprise springing of the 1-3-1 defense (nice move by Coach Carmody to see that Anthony Hill would do more damage to NU than the Panther three point shooters) to help hold off a Wisconsin-Milwaukee comeback effort in the second half to capture the program’s first postseason win in 17 years. Northwestern will now face Boston College in Chestnut Hill on Saturday morning at 11AM Eastern Time. That to me isn’t an ideal start time, but I suspect the NIT wants to try to avoid too much overlap with NCAA games. And considering that we could be Wisconsin-Milwaukee and not play till November, I’m not going to complain.
Tonight’s Wildcat win featured solid play from John Shurna, Juice Thompson, and Alex Marcotullio. It was good to see Marcotullio step up with the injury to JerShon Cobb keeping the talented freshman on the bench and Mike Capocci and Drew Crawford both struggling. I think Capocci probably still isn’t a 100% after his own injury and Drew Crawford simply isn’t shooting well right now. Personally, I think it’s all psychological with Crawford and probably instead of practice would sit him in the video room and have him watch one of the games were in exploded for 25 points plus because it’s pretty clear right now the kid needs a confidence boost.
Speaking of confidence, Shurna seemed to have plenty off it coming off his tremendous performance in the Big Ten Tournament near upset of Ohio State. Tonight, John scored 25 points, connected on half his threes, and pulled down eight rebounds. He was also part of very a strong middle 3 in NU’s 1-3-1 which helped keep Panther star Anthony Hill from getting many good looks at the basket.
Juice Thompson was good as well in what is probably his last game at Welsh-Ryan Arena unless Long Beach State pulls enough upsets for NU to make it back home in the NIT’s quarterfinals. Juice made seven field goals and assisted on six more. He totaled 20 points and 4 rebounds. He made 4 threes, but seemed to have a number of others which nearly went as well. As NU heads on the road, the continued desire of Juice to will his team to victory and extend his college career will be critical to future Wildcat success.
Alex Marcotullio continues to develop thanks to Cobb’s injury. He stared again tonight and scored 13 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, and got 3 steals. His constant hustle had him in the middle of a number of other plays for near steals as well. Alex sometimes still makes mistakes, but it is important to remember he’s still young and is just now cracking the starting lineup. Overall, his energy always seems to help NU and I think he’ll be a big help when NU tried to defend a fairly athletic BC team.
I mentioned Drew Crawford earlier. Somehow, someway, NU needs him to step up when they play Boston College. Crawford worked his way to 6 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists today, but his scoring punch is missed by the ‘Cats. I think he’ll be the key guy in the BC game so I hope he gets with Coach Henderson and they work on brining back the hot-shooting Drew Crawford we know exists.
Credit also goes to Luka Mirkovic who helped NU win the rebounding battle with 8 boards of his own (including four on the offensive end) and by holding position against Anthony Hill and allowing his teammates to get rebounds. Luka also did a good job in his role as a passer in NU’s offense and got four assists to his name.
NU only got two bench points today (Mike Capocci free throws) and I think both Capocci and Davide Curletti will need to do more for NU to upset BC. Hopefully, another couple days will help heal Capocci.
So, it’s on to Boston College. It’ll be a tough game, but it is way better to move on than go home and I’m glad that once again NU has a postseason win on the resume. It’s a good feeling and one that’ll potentially get even better on Saturday. I can’t wait!