Going into this game, Northwestern had three main goals: open up a big enough lead to rest the starters, finally succeed at playing man-to-man defense, and don't have anyone get hurt. And Bill Carmody's team accomplished all three of those goals in a 71-45 cakewalk. There was a scary moment early in the first half when John Shurna got fouled hard on a fast break and slammed into the basket support, but he bounced back and then some with 17 first half points.
The jump. Hit it.
As you can see from the chart, Northwestern shot a much higher percentage than Pine-Bluff, turned the ball over fewer times, got more rebounds, and got to the free throw line more. So unsurprisingly, the 'Cats won easily. Most encouragingly, they held the Golden Lions to 45 points in 63 possessions, which comes out to a solid 0.72 defensive efficiency. Unlike against UTPA, the defense was able to stop dribble penetration, as I can't recall UAPB getting any lay-ups against Northwestern's man to man defense in half-court sets. On the rare occasion someone got into the lane, the help defense was there and forced a tough shot. Of course, UAPB is a long way from an offensive juggernaut, but through two games Northwestern didn't look capable of stopping any Division 1 team with a man-to-man defense, so it's a step in the right direction.
- John Shurna and Drew Crawford led the way with 17 points apiece. Shurna did all his damage in the first half, mostly on spot-up threes. Crawford scored both inside and out, as we already knew he could, but we didn't know he could play strong on the ball defense, and last night he did an excellent job on whoever he was covering, so hopefully that continues.
- JerShon Cobb struggled on offense, scoring just 6 points in 27 minutes and committing 4 turnovers, but he still found a way to contribute, with 8 rebounds and 3 steals. He was diving on the floor and out-hustling Pine Bluff players for loose balls, which is very encouraging. Some freshman (like Crawford last year) get frustrated when their shot isn't falling and don't contribute like they should in other areas, but Cobb doesn't seem to have that problem.
- Michael Thompson had an off night shooting, hitting just 1 of 6 threes, but he still chipped in with 5 assists, and most importantly he got plenty of rest, playing just 28 minutes.
- The bigs continue to not contribute much. Luka Mirkovic was unable to use his height advantage to score in the post, as he had just 4 points in 24 minutes. Davide Curletti did his best Rowley impression; 0 points, 1 rebound, 4 fouls in 7 minutes.
- Ivan Peljusic played 10 second half minutes once the game was out of reach, and his play was discouraging to put it mildly. I cannot believe this guy has been in Carmody's system for 4 years now, because he had absolutely no clue what he was doing out there. He has no concept of team defense; several times he ran over to pressure the guy with the ball and left his man wide open. And he was constantly out of sync with the offense, officially committing 3 turnovers, but I could have sworn I counted five. The best way to describe him is he's everywhere and nowhere all at the same time: he's always involved in the play, but never really in a good way. I'd advise watching the second half of this game Sunday night when BTN replays it just for the unintentional comedy of Peljusic trying to play basketball. The thought of him playing meaningful minutes in a close game is terrifying.
Northwestern now gets to rest up and enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday, as the next game isn't until next Sunday, an important home game vs. Creighton. The Bluejays are 3-0 thus far against weak competition, so hard to say how good they are, but they are certainly far better than anyone Northwestern has yet faced. We'll get a better idea when they play Iowa State tomorrow.