After starting the season 5-0, Northwestern got a rude awakening Wednesday night when they were bullied by a very good Northern Iowa team. The game was only really a contest for 15 minutes. Here are some points of analysis:
Offense -- The story of the game was Northwestern's offense, which looked frighteningly similar to NU's 2013-14 offense that ranked 309th in Division I. It's impossible to pinpoint one problem because there are so many. When Bryant McIntosh isn't making plays, everything is so stagnant. Players look lost. Their movement is standard and languid, and none of it is purposeful. The result is one player (usually Tre Demps if he's on the floor) dribbling out half of the shot clock 30 feet from the basket, or the ball being swung around the perimeter with no penetration. And of course, the result of that is low percentage shots. Whether it's Collins' fault or the players not grasping what he is trying to teach, something has to change, and it's got to change soon.
Offensive drought -- The Wildcats went on another drought, just as they did Tuesday night against Miami (OH), that effectively lost them the game. NU went nearly 10 minutes without scoring a single point during the latter half of the first 20 minutes, which allowed UNI to go on a 17-0 run that gave the Panthers an 11-point halftime lead. The Wildcats are going to be prone to these extended dry patches if they keep settling for contested jumpers.
Points in the paint -- Northwestern got destroyed in the paint, as they were outscored significantly by UNI. The problem was a combination of poor post defense and poor perimeter defense. Some credit has to go to Northern Iowa, who played well and is by far the best offensive team NU has faced. But one of NU's problems is that its two best scoring guards, McIntosh and Demps, are probably the two worst defensive guards on the roster.
Wing scoring -- NU didn't get any production out of its wing players. Both Vic Law and JerShon Cobb were complete non-factors. Cobb was especially invisible. It wasn't until Scottie Lindsey played significant second-half minutes that NU got any scoring from the position. Sanjay Lumpkin and Nate Taphorn were also extremely quiet.
Alex Olah -- Wednesday's game further exposed a dilemma that Chris Collins is going to face consistently throughout this season. When NU faces an opponent with a stretch-five who can take Alex Olah out to the perimeter, does Collins leave Olah in to retain a heigh advantage on the boards and on offense? Or does he feel the need to go to Gavin Skelly to combat that opposing big man's quickness? Olah didn't make a very strong case Wednesday. He showed flashes of competence, but for the most part wasn't good on either end. He shot 3-10 from the field.
Collins' rotation -- It's still tough to figure out Collins' rotation. In Wednesday's first half, Dave Sobolewski played while Johnnie Vassar didn't, and Nate Taphorn got six minutes while Scottie Lindsey only got four. In the second half, Vassar played while Sobolewski didn't, and Lindsey got significantly more minutes. It seems Collins is still trying to figure everything out.