1) McIntosh made the team go tonight
NU's offensive sets were not complicated, they were not new, and there were only a few of them. McIntosh or Demps would just run a high screen and roll and dribble right at Hammons or Haas. Demps struggled to finish when he actually shot it, but even when he missed, it opened up opportunities for offensive rebounds and second chance points, which Vic Law took advantage of. McIntosh was more successful at both finishing and dishing when he got around the screen. You know McIntosh wanted to stick it to a team from his home state that looked over him in high school, and you could tell that he was amped up out there. If there was even a shred of doubt in your mind about who the best freshman for Northwestern is this year, let this game be the one that ends that doubt. The offense ran through him all night, and he made things happen. Stunning game from the freshman.
2) Purdue is a very flawed team
It amazes me that a team with two 7-footers who can actually play basketball can be this mediocre. All they need is the mere threat to occasionally shoot a three pointer, and they don't have that right now. Maybe some of that is Stephens struggling with that pinky, but I don't think that explains all of it. Hammons came out and balled tonight. He knew his responsibilities defensively, letting Alex Olah take a bunch of mid-range jumpers, most if not all of which he missed. Offensively, he was just way too much man for anyone to cover. No matter who Northwestern threw at him, whether it was Olah, Kreisberg, or even Skelly could even come close to throwing him off his game. For Isaac Haas, he might not have racked up stats, but he forced a foul nearly every time he touched the ball. But even with all of that, Purdue was losing at halftime. I don't think Purdue is by any means a fun team to play, but they're not a good team yet. Northwestern has already gotten their date with Rutgers, they only have Penn State once, and they lost their home matchup against Illinois. This was one of their better chances to snag a win and they let it get away.
3) Another long run sinks Northwestern
The narrative this season has been NU going on long droughts from the field that put them out of games. More than once this season, NU developed an allergy to scoring and watched other teams either pull away or pull closer. Today it was a different kind of drought that put Northwestern away. Purdue went 6:12 before missing a shot in the second half. After playing pretty bad offense in the first half, helped by a lot of pretty solid NU perimeter defense, Purdue decided that they were done with the whole "ball bouncing off rims" thing and just went on an absolute tear. Heck, they even hit a three. Hammons was dunking, Davis was driving, and Northwestern was, well, I guess, present on the defensive end. The ball kept going into the paint. Unguarded post entries? Check. Dribble drives? Check. Fast breaks? Check. Backdoor cuts (et tu Brute?)? Check. It was the worst defensive stretch of the season, and it completely took the Wildcats out of the game.
4) The disparity at the foul stripe is a theme, and it's not because of officiating
Granted, today might have been an extreme example with Hammons and Haas on the floor, but Northwestern gets outshot at the foul line with alarming regularity. Defensively, they rank slightly above average in foul shots given per game, but their free throw attempts to field goal attempts ratio ranked 340th nationally going into this one. There are a lot of factors that go into it, but the main factor is that Northwestern doesn't have "that guy" who can put it on the deck and take it at a defender like Dez Wells or even Melo Trimble at Maryland. I was hoping that Vic Law could do that this year, but maybe that's a few years away at this point. NU needs to get to the stripe more often. Today Purdue shot 21 more foul shots than the Wildcats, and I couldn't point to a whole lot of foul calls that seemed unfair. The number is going to be slanted due to late game fouls, but the point holds.
5) Regression to Bad Demps and Bad Olah
Maybe Olah's poor performance can be excused. For as well as he's played for big portions of this year, he hasn't played anyone even close to resembling the twosome he faced today. Still, seeing him put up a three that hit halfway up the backboard wasn't exactly comforting, nor was the airball from the right baseline. Tre Demps has no such excuse, even if he somehow finished with more than 15 points. Northwestern put the ball in his hands pretty much all night, running the same high ball screen that McIntosh was running. While McIntosh made good decisions and hit shots, Demps did neither. He got red hot in crunch time (as Demps is wont t o do), but that doesn't excuse the play for the first 34 minutes of the game. Demps coming into this game did a good job picking his spots. In his last 5, Demps has shot it 13 times (in OT), 7, 7, 11 (where he scored 14) and 9. Today he shot it nearly 20 times and not a lot of them looked like good shots. NU needs Nate Taphorn back and JerShon Cobb in attack mode. It's fun to ride Tre Demps when he's hot, but when he's not, guys need to step up and take some of his shots.