I was at the Garden Monday night and will be there again tonight. Weird atmosphere.
First off, I'm used to seeing Madison Square Garden with 19,000 fans or so. Instead, there were a couple of thousand and about 14,000 empty seats. Surreal sight.
Before we jump into the recap, decent NU turnout, definitely some purple there. Props to the one guy who repeatedly started "Go U!" chants - I could hear you from the other side of the stadium. Not props to the stadium crew that selected former NU shooting guard Craig Moore for a seat upgrade or something - he already had better seats than most people did (not that I didn't move up on several occasions). Be more impartial, yo!
Oh, and hey, Northwestern won by 30!
- Props props props to Drew Crawford for a great, great night: 25 points, nine rebounds, eight assists. He has this one move that has been deadly tonight and against Georgia Tech, a few dribbles baseline and a pull-up jumper. I have a fear that in conference play it's going to be a few dribbles baseline and a fadeaway jumper, but if he can keep getting that shot off, it'll get ugly for opposition, because it's deadly. He also did a great job of making himself available along the wing for three in transition and camping out there to drain the as the Princeton Offense ran itself.
- The key to NU's win was the 1-3-1 defense. Before NU settled into it, they looked a little slow and were allowing a lot of penetration, letting the ball get into the lane for a lot of easy scores. Once the zone snapped in, NU was golden, forcing all sorts of turnovers and not giving up any easy shots. One of the beauties of the 1-3-1 zone is that a lot of the time you can convince your opponent that if they play at 120% speed they can beat your zone, a lot of the time they'll get past the first trap and bulldoze out of control into a waiting defender. NU did a nice job moving their feet and forcing charges and travels both in the middle of the zone and down on the baseline. St. Francis also forced a lot of passes across the zone that got picked off. NU forced 21 turnovers to only 11 assists on 75 St. Francis possessions - a really spectacular number.
- The 1-3-1 and hot shooting can really demoralize an opponent. St. Francis was really hanging tough against Northwestern, had the game tied at 17. As the 1-3-1 set in, NU went on a scoring stretch where Drew Crawford, Michael Thompson, JerShon Cobb, and John Shurna hit threes, and soon, it was 36-19.
- Also great in the 1-3-1: Drew Crawford's help defense in the wing. When the 1-3-1 got beat and a St. Francis big had the ball in the zone, that didn't mean he wasn't getting swatted by Drew. Three blocks amongst all his other stats -
- St. Francis had a vocal cheering section near us, although its sort of depressing knowing their whole school's spirit can fit into one section at the Garden. They handed out these red foam dog bones that were among the more useless cheering mechanisms I've ever seen.
- When I did the names for St. Francis, I missed a player named Adam Chmielewski. This name is actually pronounced "Shmellshky". I had no idea.
- Luka Mirkovic lookalike: Voldemort. The Garden's B PA announcer took way too much time pronouncing "Meeeerkovick" every time.
- The B PA announcer also made everybody's favorite slip-up by announcing that "Northeastern leads, 13-12". Boos ensued.
- How do you lose the luggage of one player on your team? Why did it have to be one of your most important players? Was this some hex by the St. Francis Terriers' crappiest hex-setters? Guess what, hex-setters: you guys suck.
- No real minutes concern for a team playing a back-to-back: John Shurna still played 30 minutes, Juice 34. The only thing I can think of minutes-wise is that Jeff Ryan barely played while Mike Capocci saw his biggest playing time of the season. I think tomorrow we might see those two swapped.
- John Shurna, very quiet 26. Besides the dunks. But, I mean, even those were quiet. He has a habit of doing that nowadays: draining some threes and filling in some workmanlike finishes in the lane and getting fouled and you were busy paying attention to Drew Crawford being all acrobatic and you missed him.
- Strange sequence of events where a St. Francis player got called for a flagrant and ejected - even though I do not recall any such flagrant behavior - and NU proceeded to shoot six consecutive free throws: two by Nick Fruendt - which were later determined to not have counted - two by JerShon Cobb - who apparently got fouled - and then two more by Fruendt - who, after missing one of the first two, drained both, and fist-pumped heartily towards the crowd.
- I think Luka Mirkovic's shooting instructor is Shy Ronnie. About half of his threes he drains and the other half his nerves completely lock into a ball and he airballs it fourteen feet in one direction.
- Alex Marcotullio gets props for padding John Shurna's season stats by completely unnecessarily dumping a pass over his shoulder when he could've easily laid it up on a breakaway so Shurna could continue to tack on to that season average. Props, Alex. I see you.