Northwestern got their first test of the season tonight, and struggled on both ends of the court in a 13 point loss to Butler. The game wasn't as close as the final score indicated, as Butler opened the 2nd half on a 20-6 run, opening up a 20 point lead and turning a close game into a blowout very quickly.
The Cats were led by Juice Thompson and John Shurna on offense. Thompson had 16 points and 4 assists and Shurna finished with 14 points and 9 rebounds. But the two got very little support, as the other 8 guys who played had just 24 points total. The only bright spot off the bench was freshman Alex Marcotullio, who had 8 points, including one NBA range 3 late in the 2nd half. Northwestern struggled to run its offense the entire game, turning the ball over 16 times and not finding many open looks. While this was in part due to Butler playing great defense, there are a lot of problems for the Cats on offense.
One is that there are only 2 go to guys on the offensive end, Shurna and Thompson. Shurna tried his best to make plays one on one late in the shot clock, but he's just not ready to be that kind of player yet. Thompson shot the ball well from beyond the arc, but he only took 7 shots in 40 minutes. Northwestern needs him to be more assertive in the future.
But a bigger problem is that the role players can't seem to score. Marcotullio looks like he has potential as a 3-point specialist, but he's the only other guy who can make a 3. Crawford might start hitting them eventually, but he hasn't yet. Nash is never going to be a great offensive player and is much better suited in a 6th man/energy guy role. Mirkovic has pretty good footwork in the post, but doesn't take the ball up strong and finish around the basket, and he doesn't seem to look for perimeter jumpers. Rowley showed some flashes tonight but is still a work in progress. Capocci and Peljusic are both decent athletes, but neither can create their own shot or consistently knock down an open jumper. For Northwestern to accomplish anything this season, a few of the role players are going to have to provide consistent production on the offensive end. If not, we're in for a long season.