In what has become a somewhat common and troubling theme for Northwestern in recent weeks, the Wildcats, yet again, started sluggish in their 76-55 win over Northern Kentucky. The Norse hounded Wildcat ball-handlers early on, forcing Northwestern into a number of empty possessions.
But with about five minutes to go in the first half, Northwestern's offense, which had been carried solely by Bryant McIntosh, who finished with 15 points, was ignited by Tre Demps, who finished the first half with a buzzer-beating layup to put the Wildcats up 36-24.
Northwestern got off to a quick start in the second half, keeping its comfortable double-digit lead over the Norse. Demps led all scorers with 23 points.
Three Big Things:
- Vic Law's play of late has been concerning, especially on the offensive end. With JerShon Cobb out for the fifth-straight game, it has been players such as McIntosh, Scottie Lindsey and Nate Taphorn who have taken advantage of larger offensive roles, while Law has continued to struggle. The freshman forward started the game but was largely unheard from in the first half, missing both of his field goal attempts in 10 minutes. He looked a little more engaged in the second half, scoring six points and grabbing four rebounds. Northwestern is going to need a scoring punch from Law as the team enters Big Ten play. He just hasn't looked comfortable and seems too content settling for long jumpers.
- On the flipside of the Vic Law coin is Scottie Lindsey, whose play has been impressive since gaining a larger role in Cobb's absence. He's an aggressive scorer, always looking for, but not forcing, his shots. He took Law's place to start the second-half and added a career-high 12 points off the bench, including a nice dunk in traffic. If Cobb isn't able to contribute much when he returns and Demps is forced to stay in the starting lineup, Lindsey gives Northwestern a versatile guard with really good size to bring off the bench for a scoring punch.
- One of the benefits of having a good post player is that the defense can be sucked into defending him, creating mismatches all over the floor. Double teams allow for mismatches that offensives are able to exploit. Early on against Northern Kentucky, Northwestern center Alex Olah couldn't take advantage when the Norse trapped him on the block. Too often he spun into the trap and brought the ball too low, allowing Northern Kentucky defenders to swipe at it. In the second-half, though, Olah made the proper adjustments. Although he didn't score much (two points), he finished with seven assists on the afternoon.
What's next: Northwestern (9-4) travels to New Jersey to take on Rutgers in the Big Ten opener on Dec. 30.