Tonight’s 83-64 win over Iowa was the best game Northwestern has played so far this year. If the ‘Cats had been a little better from the free throw line I might say it was as good as they were capable of playing. Regardless, I thought Northwestern ran their offense to perfection and played very strong defense getting their hands on passes in the 1-3-1 and making life equally difficult for Iowa to score when in man-to-man.
This win is NU’s third in a row and that winning streak correlates with the emergence of other scorers for the ‘Cats beside John Shurna and Drew Crawford. The most significant to me is freshman guard Dave Sobolewski. Sobo stepped up tonight with 23 points and 7 assists (against 3 turnovers) in 40 minutes of action. He also recorded four steals. It’s tough replacing what Juice Thompson did last year for NU when he played as well as any Wildcat I’ve seen in his final 10 or so games, but Sobolewski seems to be now where Juice was when Juice was a sophomore or junior. Juice led both those teams to the postseason and Sobolewski seems to be leading this team in the same direction and maybe even to a more prestigious spot in the postseason.
Another non-star who stepped up for NU was Reggie Hearn who followed up his 20 point game versus Illinois with 16 points tonight vs Iowa. Alex Marcotullio started slow, but pretty much ended the game himself when he went on an individual 9-0 run that put a stop to any Iowa hopes for a comeback.
As far as NU’s stars, Drew Crawford, like did vs Illinois, wasn’t as significant as some other guys in the scoring column (11 points tonight), but he makes an impact on defense and on the glass and tonight dished out four assists. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Drew have a huge game Sunday at Purdue as Drew tends to be a streaky player and the percentages say his outside shot will fall more Sunday after two games where he’s struggled from distance.
John Shurna was his solid self on offense with 17 points. He needs to make more of his free throws, but actually the play that impressed me most with Shurna was a rebound. He tapped the ball up to himself then controlled it in the midst of a couple Iowa players. The getting that 50/50 ball just seemed to show the intensity with which Shurna was playing and I’ve seen the same focus the last few games. If Shurna and his teammates keep that focus up they’ve got a real shot to pull off a couple upsets in the next week.
Finally, I have to give some credit to Nick Fruendt who saw some action tonight. He knows what’s going on and while he hasn’t scored in this game or the win over Michigan State, he saw significant action in both games and with Luka Mirkovic and JerShon Cobb still on the bench; Fruendt is an important player for Northwestern.