Tonight's 81-68 Northwestern win over Mississippi Valley State wasn't a thing of beauty, but it was a win and in the end maybe the fact the Wildcats can learn some tough lessons and get a win is a good sign.
The biggest issue Northwestern had tonight was on defense as I felt the 'Cats somewhat reverted back to the poor defense shown in their exhibition game. NU must solidify the defense they play especially their communication and rotation in order to compete in the Big Ten. I must admit that some of tonight's troubles started with the flat out amazing performance of MVSU's Davon Usher who for the first 35 minutes of the game couldn't miss. At times he was well defended and yet he still scored. In fact, his 35 point game tonight might be the best game by a guy NU faces all year. Still, I know the Wildcats can defend better. I credit Coach Carmody for sticking with the man defense though and forcing the players to realize they need to win or lose with man and can't always depend on the 1-3-1 zone to bail them out.
One positive sign for NU was that despite Drew Crawford being saddled with foul trouble all night NU put up 81 points. A great all around game from Reggie Hearn who scored 23 points and hit the glass hard highlighted the effort and Jared Swopshire posted a career high of 22 points and hit his first Wildcat threes which will be an important aspect of his game. Dave Sobolewski scored his first three point baskets in the second half as well and his overall floor game and leadership was outstanding as usual.
I would like to see shoot better from the free throw line. Especially since they are a shooting team and as I said in my pregame write up, NU needs points from their centers. I don't like when it appears the coaches have Alex Olah and Mike Turner worried about missing shots. Those guys need to be willing to shoot the ball. If they miss sometimes that's a shame, but I think in the long run the payoff will be worthwhile.
The bench was a little shorter tonight as well, but all in all this was an odd game. I'll be interested to see Sunday. I'll also be interested in see if any more fans show up. These two games have been some of the worst attended games I can remember regardless of who NU was playing. I really wonder what's going on since many more tickets are apparently sold and the team is expected to play well.