Northwestern cruised by Chicago State Sunday night, 77-35. It was yet another comfortable win over a significantly inferior opponent. The win takes the Wildcats to 8-1 on the season.
Northwestern actually came out a tad sluggishly. Its defensive rotations were slow, and its ball movement was lacking. But Chicago State wasn't anywhere near good enough to take advantage. The Cougars' shot selection was horrible all game, and they didn't really test a Northwestern defense that seemed to be vulnerable early on.
Pretty soon, the Wildcats took control. After the score stood at 16-13 with just over eight minutes remaining in the first half, Northwestern went on an astounding 30-4 run. Chicago State scored just four points over a 13-minute, 47-second stretch that all but ended the game.
Northwestern played exclusively man-to-man defense, and held the Cougars to 25 percent shooting. After hitting an NBA range three-pointer to take a 5-0 lead a few minutes into the game, Chicago State missed its next 18 threes, and finished the night 1-19 from long range. The Cougars' struggles were a combination of their own ineptitude and NU's impressive defense.
On offense, Northwestern was carried by Tre Demps and Alex Olah early, but ended up spreading around the scoring. Six Wildcats scored eight points or more. Northwestern easily picked apart Chicago State's zone, which the Cougars occasionally extended beyond half court. NU shot 15-36 (41.7 percent) from three-point range, and for much of the game, that percentage was even better.
Here are three takeaways — kind of — from Northwestern's victory:
1. Tre Demps kept pace with Chicago State on his own
Demps was Northwestern's best player on the night, and as late as the 10:59 mark of the second half, he trailed Chicago State's entire team by just one point, 21-20. With Northwestern holding a 30-plus-point lead, Demps understandably spent many of the game's waning minutes on the bench, allowing the Cougars to pull ahead, but the player vs. team matchup was a pretty good representation of how one-sided this game was.
Demps finished with 23 points and added a career-high 9 rebounds. He also dished out three assists, and didn't turn the ball over. After struggling from three-point range at times early in the season, it was nice to see Demps get going. He shot 5-10 from beyond the arc. However, any takeaway has to be followed up with the phrase, "but it was Chicago State."
2. Joey van Zegeren out with foot injury
Van Zegeren missed Sunday's game with a foot injury, and per WGN's Dave Eanet, he will be out a "few weeks." Van Zegeren was on the bench Sunday in street clothes with a boot on his left foot. Northwestern didn't miss him Sunday — Alex Olah had his way with Chicago State's undersized front line, and the Wildcats were never at a size disadvantage on the defensive end or on the boards — but the frontcourt rotation will be something to watch while van Zegeren is out. Northwestern coach Chris Collins has spoken often about getting Olah more rest this season to limit his "tired minutes," but with van Zegeren out, that won't be possible. Northwestern's other true center, freshman Dererk Pardon, is redshirting. Gavin Skelly saw minutes at the five as Olah's backup on Sunday.
3. No need to over-analyze
Seriously, there's really not much to say about this game. There's no need to try to over-analyze it. Northwestern beat another completely overmatched opponent in a non-conference game. It's good to see the Wildcats putting away teams like the Cougars early, but it would've taken a disastrous performance to make Sunday's game a close one. Northwestern should get another easy win Tuesday against Mississippi Valley State, and then the next somewhat real test will come Saturday at DePaul.
- Despite starting once again, Scottie Lindsey played just 17 minutes, and more than half of them came with the game out of reach late in the second half. Sanjay Lumpkin, Nate Taphorn and Aaron Falzon played the majority of NU's meaningful minutes at the three and four positions.
- Tre Demps played 34 minutes, even in a blowout. McIntosh played 28. Jordan Ash played 12, but nearly all of them came late with Northwestern's lead in the 30s.