by Chris Johnson (@ChrisDJohnsonn)
Playing its second game in three days, Northwestern rebounded from a tough two-point loss against Stanford to crush Brown, 63-42.
The good: Sobo Rebounds
Plenty of things went awry in Northwestern’s loss to Stanford, Reggie Hearn’s second half injury chief among them. None was more glaring than Dave Sobolewski’s 0-for-6 performance, which followed consecutive games where he scored 21 and 18 points, respectively, against Butler and Texas State. He reasserted himself against Brown by scoring 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting and connected on three of five three-point attempts. As Northwestern continues to piece together scoring production to offset the loss of Crawford, Sobolewski’s efforts will be critical. If he can score consistently while remaining an effective distributor, the offense will run more efficiently.
The bad: Swopshire’s Reticence
Part of me wanted to see Swopshire hoist up a crazy number of shots and demand the ball like never before. After all, Brown isn’t beating Northwestern; not today, and not any day. There was plenty of room for offensive experimentation. This was the perfect opportunity for the senior transfer to springboard into a larger offensive role – the type of primary scoring threat Northwestern thought it was getting when he announced his transfer from Louisville earlier this year. Instead, Swopshire finished with a modest eight points on five attempts, including two-of-three from beyond the arc. That is not a terrible offensive statline. It is also far below what you’d expect from a player of Swopshire’s caliber on a regular basis. Maybe he’s destined for an ancillary role. Maybe he’s not ready to become a first-rate offensive option. Whatever the case, he needs to become a larger part of this offense. Swopshire could have taken that next step Sunday; he didn’t.
Stat of the night: 54.2
Of Northwestern’s 24 three-point attempts, 13 fell through the hoop. Do the math, and the bolded figure is your percentage. With Crawford on the mend, the Wildcats need all the perimeter scoring they can get. Unless Sobolewski or Hearn or Swopshire prove they can beat defenders in the open court and finish at the rim in any consistent context, three-point field goals will be Northwestern’s best weapon. If they’re connecting at this rate, the Princeton offense just plain works better. You know you’re having a good shooting day when Alex Olah – this is not a joke – goes 2-for-2 from beyond the arc (one of his long-range makes was a one-footed bankshot. I’m skeptical anyone knew Olah had that in his repertoire. Bill Carmody didn’t know what he was getting when he signed the Romanian big man).
Up next: In 10 days, Northwestern opens Big Ten play with a visit from No. 2 Michigan. The Wolverines have looked like the class of the Big Ten to date, retooled with a host of highly touted freshmen and loaded with size and talent unlike John Beilein has ever worked with during his tenure in Ann Arbor. It will be the Wildcats biggest challenge thus far. The good news is they have more than a week to prepare. Until then, Northwestern hoops fans, enjoy the Holidays!