Northwestern charged out to an early 13 point lead thanks to hot 3-point shooting, and looked like they would cruise to victory. But they played absolutely awful to close the 1st half and trailed by 1 at halftime. Things didn't get much better in the 2nd half, as Tennessee State held a 61-53 lead with about 5 minutes left. But Thompson put the 'Cats on his back, hitting two big threes then making 2 free throws to tie the score at 62. Alex Marcotullio put NU ahead for good with a three with about 2 minutes left, and they held on and escaped with the win.
Juice Thompson: Thompson had a career high 31 points on 9 for 18 shooting, including 5 for 13 on 3 pointers. He was terrific throughout, as he pretty much won the game by himself.
The freshman: Marcotullio played 19 productive minutes, scoring 9 points on 3 for 3 shooting from behind the arc. Drew Crawford filled up the stat sheet, with 8 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and a blocked shot. Both were on the floor down the stretch, and both look like they'll be good players for years to come.
Center play/rebounding: Luka Mirkovic was terrible, getting 2 points and no rebounds in 17 minutes. Kyle Rowley posted a triple zero in 6 minutes. Davide Curletti got playing time down the stretch and was servicable, but he brings very little to the table on offense and isn't big enough to be too big a factor on defense. I expected a lot more out of Mirkovic this year, but he's really struggled 2 games in a row and is in danger of losing his starting spot to Curletti.
Also, the 3 centers combined for just 2 rebounds in 40 minutes, and overall the 'Cats were out-rebounded 26-21 by a team without much size or athleticism. It seemed like Tennessee State out-hustled them going for loose balls. This is never going to be a great rebounding team, but effort shouldn't take any nights off.
John Shurna: Shurna is trying to do way too much on offense and replace Kevin Coble. He's got potential, but he's no Coble and needs to reign it in. He did have 9 points, but forced up several tough shots early in the shot clock and turned the ball over 6 times.
Turnovers: NU turned it over 14 times today, and many of them were unforced. Shurna traveled a few times driving to the basket, but the worst turnover offender was Mike Capocci, who turned it over 3 times in just 6 minutes and looked totally lost in the offense. I'm now starting to see why someone with his athleticism has been relegated to the bench for 2 years. I'm not expecting a lot out of him, but he needs to at least function in the offense without consistently turning the ball over.
Overall this was a very disapponting performance, Big Ten teams should not have that much trouble with middle of the pack Ohio Valley teams at home. I'm beginning to think Northwestern fans are in for a long season.