It wasn’t a thing of beauty, but the end result was just what Northwestern needed. A ten point win over Big Ten rival Nebraska offers the ‘Cats a chance to relax and feel like they ended the first half of the Big Ten season on a positive note. While overall the first half didn’t totally go as NU planned with just a 3-6 record, tonight’s result offers hope that the second half of the year can be better.
The key to NU winning games is getting a third scorer beyond just John Shurna and Drew Crawford. Tonight that third scorer was Dave Sobolewski who posted 15 points, 5 assists, and a team-high 6 rebounds. Consistent play from Sobolewksi on offense could help stabilize Northwestern as they go through the second half of the Big Ten and face several teams that they probably should beat.
Another key factor tonight was the fact that John Shurna showed a willingness to take over the game. I was impressed with how Shurna used both his outside game and his ability to attack the hoop. His end result of 28 points featured both a nice inside and outside game and he made almost all his free throws which was an issue in NU’s close losses earlier this season.
Drew Crawford also did a nice job attacking the hoop today and not forcing as many unnecessary off balance shots, though, there were still a few. The end result was 21 points and several huge baskets when Nebraska started to try to make a comeback. I was also impressed with Crawford making an effort on defense in NU’s 1-3-1.
Issues which existed in this game were the fact that NU still doesn’t have consistently solid defense and as a result will allow teams to go on scoring runs such as when Nebraska made 10-of-11 shots to start the second half. Also, the ‘Cats don’t get any production from the center spot as Davide Curletti finished tonight with just four points. Starting John Shurna at center seems to be an option, but NU’s lack of depth means that Shurna can’t stay at that spot all game. Therefore, at some point the ‘Cats need to get Curletti or Luka Mirkovic to have a positive impact on a game.
NU could certainly use more healthy players for the next part of the season, but so far Luka and JerShon Cobb remain hurt and Nick Fruendt seems unlikely to crack the lineup for any length of time despite having some success in limited action over the last two years.