It wasn't a perfect game for Northwestern but it was far better than either of their two previous Big Ten contests. NU finally got consistent from the outside and made a enough three point shots to get the defense to respect the outside shooting which opened up some space for NU to drive and get some easy baskets. The end result was the overall best offensive game Northwestern has played in sometime.
The two keys to NU's offensive attack were Dave Sobolewski and Jared Swopshire. They both need to be 15 or more points per game scorers if NU is to compete in the Big Ten and that's what they both were tonight. I was very impressed with how Sobolewski seemed to be more aware of looking for shots than he was at Minnesota. Of course, the fact he wasn't ordered to make sure a shot didn't go up until 10 seconds or less were on the shot clock probably helped. NU ran time off the clock at times tonight, but they also were not afraid to take a really good shot if it presented itself early. Perhaps that middle ground is where NU should be the rest of this season. It seemed to help Sobolewski who made some nice drives to the hoop in addition to hitting some threes. Swopshire was primarily an inside player who scored off the dribble or in the post, but the fact he also hit an early three I think was key to his offensive confidence. He also did a nice job on the glass today and seemed to facilitate well and set up his teammates for some good shots. Perhaps he's getting more comfortable playing in NU's offense.
I also would be remiss if I didn't mention Kale Abrahamson's shooting tonight. He knocked down three threes and I really think he's going to be a great offensive player. I have total confidence when he shoots stand still shots and I think if he gets enough of those he will become a regularly double figure scorer. NU also got some nice shots from Reggie Hearn who is still clearly not 100% but I think it's clear NU is better if he's on the court even if he's not at his best. Of course, Hearn is one of several Wildcats who need to work on their free throw shooting. NU already lost to UIC this year because they couldn't make free throws and I'm really worried how their lack of consistency at the line will play out in close games.
I also worry about NU's interior defense. PSU got a lot of inside shots which didn't fall. Northwestern needs to do a better job of denying entry passes and not getting caught in mismatches when they switch. Alex Olah and Kale Abrahamson shouldn't be defending quick guards, but the willingness of NU to switch instead of fighting through screens makes things too easy for opponents at times. NU has another winnable game next vs Iowa, but they can't let Iowa get easy shots because they'll do a better job of converting them than PSU did. It's a big game for NU on Sunday if they can win that game and somehow steal a win in their next two the 'Cats could be 3-3 after 6 Big Ten games despite facing a ridiculously tough schedule.