They finally did it. The Wildcats rebounded both in basketball terms and mentally to get their second quality win of the year. It’s easy to look at today’s game and then look back and really be frustrated by the losses NU suffered to Illinois and Michigan, but you can’t do that. You need to focus on today’s success and use that as a potential jumping off point for a sustained run of success.
The Wildcats still ran into some old problems such as their continued struggles at the free throw line and they seem to have issues at times recognizing that they are being doubled teamed and as a result miss getting the ball to open shooters. However, some of the other major issues the Wildcats have had such as turnover trouble and rebounding were taken care of today. The ‘Cats turned the ball over just seven times compared to MSU’s 14 and while Michigan State did outrebound NU by 12, the Spartans didn’t have many three or four shot possessions which just cut the heart out of NU’s effort to sustain momentum. I truly believe if NU plays as well on the glass as they did today and shoots free throws as well as they can that Northwestern will have a chance in virtually any game they play.
Part of Northwestern’s success on the glass today came as a result of finally getting production from the center spot. Davide Curletti ended the day with a team high six rebounds but it wasn’t just the number. It was that twice he turned offensive rebounds into points. It was that his hustle keep the ball alive and seemed to inspire NU’s other guys to hit the glass.
Thanks to Curletti getting 17 points and finally giving NU a center who was willing to take and make an outside shot, the game seemed to open up for NU’s other players to drive the lane. Dave Sobolewski found his way to the hoop several time as did John Shurna, Drew Crawford, and Reggie Hearn. While Shurna and Crawford were, as one would expect, the big scorers in the game, you can’t discount the performance from the other guys on NU’s team. Especially when you consider that Shurna, Crawford, Curletti, Hearn, and Sobolewski basically played the entire second half thanks to Luka Mirkovic’s ineffectiveness and JerShon Cobb and Alex Marcotullio’s injuries. Those issues also caused Nick Fruendt to get off the bench for seven minutes today and while he really didn’t go anything on offense or get a rebound, he wasn’t abused by superior athletes as so many people have feared he would end up being if he played.
I mentioned NU still struggled from the free throw line, but John Shurna did make 10-of-11 which was huge because he wasn’t hitting a ton from the field. This once again brings up the question why he wasn’t allowed to shoot the technical against Michigan, but I’ll try my best not to dwell on that fact. The guy who did shoot that technical was Drew Crawford and he had a nice day today as well (though only made 1-of-2 free throws) making some nice drives to the basket, mid-range shots, and hitting three threes. Dave Sobolewski took care of the ball with seven assists and only one turnover.
I’m not sure NU can go a real long winning streak without getting healthier, but it was good to see that even without Marcotullio to sub for him in the second half that Reggie Hearn kept making plays. He pulled down some key rebounds and made a couple nice baskets around the hoop which were in key in NU’s ability to hold the lead.
Overall this was a great and much needed win for the mental state of not only this team but the NU fans as well.
If the 'Cats can win at Wisconsin next week then I'll be willing to get back to talking tournament.
Oh yeah, and if the Big Ten is willing to let us wear those black jerseys at home I say we wear them every game until we lose. They've got to be okay on the road becasue they're a dark color and I guess based on the fact we wore them, that we're allowed to wear them at home too.