After what many considered to be its worst performance of the season on Saturday in a 89-57 loss to Indiana, Northwestern failed to show any improvement and was victim of yet another blowout at the hands of a Top 25 Big Ten opponent. The Wildcats were shot out of Welsh-Ryan Arena on Thursday as the Michigan State Spartans cruised to a 76-45 win.
There were very few positives to take away from this game. From an offensive standpoint, Northwestern was held to 45 points — a season low — and shot an appalling 12-of-58 from the field (20.7%). On the defensive end, the Wildcats were able to contest some of the Spartans' perimeter shots but with very little success as the Spartans knocked down 8 of 11 threes in the first half on their way to a season-high 16 made threes to finish the game.
With that being said, here are the player grades from Thursday's loss:
Bryant McIntosh - B-
McIntosh led the team with 14 points and was able to generate some offense for the Wildcats in the first half. And he had one of his best defensive highlights of the season when he blocked Bryn Forbes early on. However in the second half, we saw Michigan State start to pressure McIntosh more when he had the ball and the sophomore guard was unable to get anything going.
A big problem that Northwestern has run into during Big Ten play is finding open shots and McIntosh has experienced that more than anyone else on the team. Recently, he's having less success running the pick and roll, which is extremely problematic given how reliant the Wildcats' offense has been on McIntosh all season. It also wasn't McIntosh's best day distributing the ball as he had only 2 assists.
Tre Demps - D-
Coming off a bounce back performance in Indiana, Demps regressed against Michigan State, shooting a horrific 2 of 14 from the field and 0 of 7 from deep. He also led the team with 3 turnovers. On a positive note, Demps contributed 4 rebounds and led the team with 3 assists. Many thought that Demps' last game at Indiana was a sign of better things to come, but he still seems to be struggling to find good looks and even when he does, he has had trouble converting.
Aaron Falzon - B-
It certainly wasn't Falzon's best shooting day of the season, but it also was far from his worst. The freshman was able to find numerous open looks behind the arc and convert on 2 of his 6 attempts. He also started to put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket, something that has been useful for him in other games this year. Moreover, it is encouraging to see that Falzon led the team with 6 rebounds (3 offensive, 3 defensive), which is more than Northwestern's three main big men had combined in this game. The one thing that Falzon seemed to struggle with at times was his offensive spacing. He would get caught standing in the same spot for too long, which might have contributed to a lack of open looks for NU's offense.
Sanjay Lumpkin - D
We've gotten used to seeing Lumpkin not play a major role in the Wildcats' offense. This game wasn't any different. He attempted just 4 field goals throughout the game and converted on just one of them. Lumpkin is such a liability on offense that Michigan State put Deyonta Davis on him and just had Davis sag off Lumpkin and be a presence as a help defender in the paint.
Joey van Zegeren - Inc.
Alex Olah - F
Olah, like Demps, had what many considered to be a bounce back performance against Indiana on Saturday, but proceeded to follow that up with one his most underwhelming performances of the season. The senior center is clearly not 100 percent, as Chris Collins mentioned in his post game press conference, and it showed Thursday as he got dominated by Michigan State.
On offense, Olah missed all 6 of his shots from the field, with his only points coming off made free throws, and on defense he looked lost for most of the game. Rebounding was also a major problem for the 7-footer, as he only grabbed 1 total rebound in his 19 minutes played, which is as many as van Zegeren had in just 3 minutes on the court. When Olah's size is matched by an opponent, his lack of quickness and agility can be exposed. That's what happened Thursday.
Dererk Pardon - B
Pardon played efficiently when he was on the floor today and was able to make more of an impact than any of the Wildcats' other big men this game. He finished with an offensive rating of 158, per KenPom, which was by far the highest on the team.
Nathan Taphorn - F
While Pardon led the team in offensive rating, Taphorn finished in last with an offensive rating of 0. For a "shooter" to play 18 minutes and not score a single point is inexcusable. As has been a theme for most of the season, Taphorn also struggled with his defense, often losing track of defenders and/or not closing out on shooters. Collins mentioned to reporters on Tuesday that Taphorn had been dealing with a foot injury that has limited his practice time, which could serve as an explanation to why his shooting numbers have slipped lately. He has not made a three since Northwestern's win at Minnesota on January 9.
Scottie Lindsey - Inc.
Lindsey did not play, even in garbage time. "I just went with other guys," Collins said after the game.
Gavin Skelly - Inc.
Skelly did not see any time on the floor until garbage time. With Olah back and Pardon playing a significant role, it's hard to see where Skelly fits into the rotation.
Jordan Ash - B-
This was the most time Ash has seen in Big Ten play, and there were a few positive takeaways. He was able to record a steal off an errant inbounds pass midway through the first half and also had an emphatic block on Alvin Ellis late in the second half. His one made jump shot came in the second half. Ash's minutes are in large part due to Lindsey's absence though, and he's still not anything close to a difference maker.