After a very sluggish first 15 minutes, Northwestern pulled away from North Florida for another easy victory. It was an all around team effort, as 6 players finished in double figures, led by Juice Thompson's 14. Luka Mirkovic had one of his best games as a Wildcat, with 13 points and 8 assists, doing a great job spreading the ball around from the post, and making 3 out of 4 from 3-point range. Mirkovic emerging as a legitimate threat from behind the arc would be huge for the 'Cats going forward, as having a center who can make outside shots is a key part of the Princeton offense. Alex Marcotullio once again impressed on the defensive end, as he had 5 steals and was all over the court.
Once again Northwestern shot the lights out from 3-point range, making 14 of 28 attempts. I'm not 100% sure but 34 threes over 2 games has to be another Big Ten record since the previous high was 18 and its highly unlikely that team had 17 the game before or after. Anyways, Northwestern has shown that teams won't be able to succeed playing zone defense, as two straight opponents have tried and gotten bombarded by long range shots. This should open up the lane for a lot more easy backdoor layups, especially if Mirkovic can continue to pass and shoot so well.
It's becoming clearer by the game that Kyle Rowley will never be an effective center in the Big Ten; in fact it's highly questionable whether he could succeed in the Atlantic Sun. I didn't have a problem with him getting minutes tonight because most of them were when the game was well in hand, but I'll be disappointed if he plays much vs Stanford. Mirkovic probably can't play 40 minutes, but Stanford's front line is small and not very athletic; a small lineup of Shurna, Crawford, Marcutullio, Nash and Thompson wouldn't be out-manned inside.
There was one scary moment in the opening minutes as Thompson went down clutching his ankle. I was listening to WGN radio at the time as the game on before NU ran long, and Dave Eanet's initial reaction to it made me sure Thompson was seriously injured; Eanet sounded near tears. Thankfully it wasn't at all serious, as Thompson stayed in the game and seemed fine.
As I was typing this up, I was watching Stanford play Oklahoma State, and while Stanford lost the game, they made a strong rally in the final minutes and nearly pulled it off. Northwestern is going to need to play well to win on Saturday. If the 'Cats do manage to pull it off, there's a good chance they will crack the top 25 in next week's poll. I cannot believe I just typed that.