Monday, December 17, 2012

Northwestern Survives Sloppy Play to Post W in First Post-Crawford Game

I'm not 100% sure that having Drew Crawford would have made that much of a difference in this game. He might have made a few more shots, but the problems we saw tonight were the same problems we saw when Drew Crawford was on the floor. The most critical of which is free throw shooting. I'm tempted to say that all NU should do at practice tomorrow is shoot free throws. That's an area that has to improve for Northwestern to have any chance of being competitive the rest of the season.

Turnovers were also a problem for some of NU's better players. NU only turned the ball over 12 times, but the two primary ball handlers Dave Sobolewski and Reggie Hearn had two-thirds of those and that's a potential problem. Without Crawford those two guys are going to have the ball in their hands most of the time. Sobolewski shouldn't turn the ball over that much. He's coming off a season where he was one of the best in the B1G at taking care of the ball and he only turned the ball over 10 times in NU's first 9 games. What's gone wrong over the past two games is honestly something of a mystery, but I suspect it's more mental than physical for Sobo and he needs to get through that sooner rather than later. Hearn probably has the ball in his hands more often which might account for more turnovers, but I think he still needs to take care of the ball better if he's going to be NU's top scoring threat which he probably is at this point. Even today, he was one of NU's leading scorers with 15 points (right behind Sobo's 18) and showed some nice moves around the hoop, but he's got to take care of the ball.

Aside from Sobo and Hearn NU got double figure efforts from Tre Demps and Jared Swopshire. Demps did a great job coming off the bench and sparking NU. However, Demps went down with an ankle injury early in the second half. Swopshire scored 10 points and got 5 rebounds and 3 assists. His solid all-around effort is something that needs to be duplicated regularly.

NU also got a decent scoring game from Kale Abrahamson who hit three threes. When Kale sets his feet he's probably a 60% shooter but far too often he just launches shots without getting his feet set. I don't know if he just feels rushed in a college game compared to a high school game, but I have no doubt he can score. He just needs to understand how.

This obviously was kind of an ugly game, but the post-final hangover is something many teams deal with. I think Friday's game will tell us more. I see Stanford as very similar to Iowa and Iowa's probably about the eighth best B1G team. If NU wants to make a postseason tournament of some sort then they have to beat that type of team at home. I do hold out some hope that Nikola Cerina will be something of a difference maker when he gets healthy as I really like his game, but NU also needs Sanjay Lumpkin to contribute and if Tre Demps is now out, well, that would be bad. Somehow NU needs to show some perseverance and get through some very tough times but if they can improve day by day they can make a postseason tournament, but to circle around back to where we started the most important improvement has to be at the free throw line.

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