Wow that was ugly. Desperate for a win, Michigan State thoroughly dominated Northwestern 68-44 to hand NU its 10th consecutive defeat. It's safe to say the Wildcats failed this test. But just how bad was it?
Overall grade: F
The final score says it all. This game was lost 10 minutes in when Michigan State went on a 22-1 run to close out the first half. It was the same old story as Northwestern competed in the second half, just like at Wisconsin, but the game was already over. The Spartans shot the lights out from deep while NU couldn't hit a shot. MSU picked apart any defense NU threw at them, and dominated the boards. It was an absolute blowout.
Chris Collins kept switching between man-to-man and zone defenses. But it didn't matter. Michigan State was feeling it from the field. Even though MSU shot the ball exceptionally well, it was almost as if Northwestern didn't read the scouting report. The Spartans, who are second in the Big Ten in three-point percentage, were frequently left wide open on the perimeter and made nine threes in the first half alone. On four out of five defensive possessions the Cats left Bryn Forbes, the second best three point shooter in the conference, wide open on the perimeter. How do you let that happen? These kind of defensive lapses are inexcusable. To make matters worse, NU was out-rebounded 20-13 and struggled to defend in transition.
Northwestern was even worse on offense. The Cats made just four (!) field goals in the first half. They shot 18 percent from the field and 10 percent from three for the first 20 minutes. Part of that was Michigan State's defense--the Spartans came out swarming and forced 10 Northwestern turnovers in the first half. But NU's lackluster offense was more at fault. The Cats managed just one (!) assist in the first half to Michigan State's 13. Along with the turnovers, Northwestern generated hardly any high percentage looks. Numerous times the Cats wasted away the shot clock and had to force up bad, contested shots out of isolation offense. What's more NU's bench was outscored 14-0 in the first half.
Olah failed to make any sort of a positive impact, especially in the first half. He continues to bring the ball down when he catches it in the post, resulting in turnovers. And he was a ghost on the boards. Not-so-fun-fact: Olah has not made a three pointer in Big Ten play. After opening the season 6 for 13 from beyond the arc, he has gone 0 for his last 12.
Demps was the only one who showed up for Northwestern. He had one of his more efficient offensive performances. Too bad his teammates didn't show up. Demps was the only NU player who made a field goal in the first half. The rest of Northwestern went 0-15 in the first half.
McIntosh had a really tough night. Aside from getting to the line a couple times early, he made virtually no contributions on offense.The freshman only mustered three assists in 33 minutes of action, which isn't going to cut it for any starting point guard.
Lumpkin got the starting nod and was tasked with guarding Branden Dawson. Lumpkin got in foul trouble early, which has been an issue for the sophomore. I thought he defended Dawson pretty well when he was in the game, but Lumpkin struggled on the glass. Dawson killed NU on the offensive glass. Lumpkin also led the team with three turnovers.
With Jershon Cobb out with injury, Law got more minutes than usual. He even got the start over Scottie Lindsey. His offensive stat-line looks pretty solid, but it is a bit deceiving. He was 3-for-4 from the floor, but his tendency to dribble around a lot contributes to NU's stagnation on offense. Furthermore, Law is still in love with one of the most difficult shots in basketball: the 18-foot contested step-back. Nonetheless, Law provided one of the few NU highlight-worthy moments of the night: a pretty spin-move and finish late in the second half. And, most important, Law used his physical gifts to make an impact on the defensive end and on the glass, as his stats show, which is a great sign.
Lindsey really struggled to find any sort of rhythm on offense and turned in an overall pedestrian performance for his standards.
Slightly below average performance for Sobo. In an off night for McIntosh, the veteran was unable to step it up off the bench, attempting just one shot: a deep three.
Skelly had to come in early in the first quarter with Lumpkin in foul trouble. He did a nice job limiting Dawsen on defense and grabbed an offensive rebound in a quasi productive eight minutes of action.
Kreisberg's only noteworthy contribution was on the offensive glass. On one occasion, the back-up center corraled a tough offensive rebound and then assisted on a Demps three.
Collins played Vassar more than he would have liked, but I thought the scrappy freshman provided NU with some much-needed energy on defense in his five minutes on the floor. Sure he had one ugly turnover, but at least he played with some aggression and heart. Not many of his teammates can say they did the same.