Ahhhh, that was nice and comfortable. After back-to-back losses following a season-opening win against Nebraska, Northwestern (14-3, 2-2 Big Ten) trounced lowly Minnesota (6-10, 0-4) 77-52. Good performances were aplenty Saturday, particularly in the second half, when the Wildcats seized control. Minnesota isn't a quality opponent, but it's an encouraging sign that head coach Chris Collins and crew were able to right the ship and pick up a much-needed win.
Here's a rundown of our player grades for each Northwestern player. For convenience sake, we'll list in order of minutes played.
Tre Demps - B+
13 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 0 turnovers on 5/11 FG, 1/5 3FG, 2/2 FT in 38 minutes
It seems that Collins and Demps went over film and that Collins was able to get through to Demps, who was much more efficient against Minnesota. While his three-pointers still weren't falling, Demps got a few easy buckets inside the paint early on and took what the defense gave him. While he was noticeably pass-first — as opposed to looking for his own shot to a fault, as he did in the past two games — he didn't need to do too much offensively with Falzon shooting the way he was. This game will do wonders for Demps' confidence, and Northwestern will need him to be similarly efficient going forward.
Bryant McIntosh - B+
7 points, 4 rebounds, 11 assits and 2 turnovers on 3/9 FG 1/5 3FG in 31 minutes
McIntosh didn't shoot the ball particularly well, but his facilitation was key in Northwestern's offensive flow and his movement allowed shooters to get free all game. Northwestern is much better when McIntosh doesn't have to score in bunches and can focus on creating space for his teammates, which was the case against Minnesota. A good example of this is the back-to-back pick and rolls in the end of the first half that both resulted in Joey Van Zegeren dunks and shifted momentum in Northwestern's favor.
Aaron Falzon - A
20 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block and 2 turnovers on 7/10 FG, 6/9 3FG in 29 minutes
Falzon was awesome, plain and simple. In his best game in a Northwestern uniform, Falzon made six threes and was aggressively looking for his shot all night. He validated the cliché that it's vital for a shooter to see his first shot go down. To put it succinctly, this was the Aaron Falzon that Collins hoped he would be getting. If Falzon can continue to shoot the ball with anything close to this sort of success, Northwestern will force defenses to game plan for him which should free up space for others.
Sanjay Lumpkin - B
3 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 1 turnover on 1/4 FG, 1/2 3FG in 23 minutes
Lumpkin's role on this team is to play tough defense and rebound, and he did both of those effectively. Lumpkin and Joey van Zegeren combined to limit Minnesota's starting front court trio of Bakary Konate, Jordan Murphy and Joey King to a combined 17 points and led all players with 10 rebounds. As a bonus, Lumpkin hit a corner three to help ice the game. When Lumpkin's making three-pointers, you know things are going well for Northwestern.
Joey van Zegeren - A-
11 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block and 2 turnovers on 4/5 FG, 3/3FT in 21 minutes
Van Zegeren defended the paint well and might be the first player in Northwestern history to dunk the basketball four times in one game. He's not going to be expected to do much offensively in the post, but he's got excellent bounce and showed he's comfortable rolling to the basket and finishing at the rim. More performances like this one should help minimize the damage stemming from Alex Olah's absence.
Dererk Pardon - C+
5 points, 0 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block and 3 turnovers on 1/1 FG, 3/4 FT in 17 minutes
Pardon didn't have his best game and showed that he still has a long way to go to be a consistent, effective offensive Big Ten player. He was hesitant to take his defender in the low post and when he did he looked timid, often shuffling his feet awkwardly and picked up an offensive foul on one possession. Additionally, 3 turnovers in 17 minutes isn't good for a player who handles the ball as little as Pardon does.
Scottie Lindsey - B+
9 points, 0 rebounds, 1 assist 2 steals and 2 turnovers on 4/6 FG, 1/3 3FG in 15 minutes
Lindsey looked tentative at times but scored around his season average and shot the ball well. His two steals were also timely, with one leading to a coast-to-coast dunk. Lindsey has been a bit disappointing this season, but today he played well within the offense and kept the ball moving — important qualities for role players.
Nathan Taphorn - B+
5 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists on 2/2 FG, 1/1 3FG in 11 minutes
Taphorn continues to be a remarkably efficient scorer in the limited time he's on the floor. Falzon is the preferred big-man-shooter — and he showed why against Minnesota — but Taphorn can certainly hold his own when it comes to shooting the basketball. He showcased his fluid, quick release and both of his shot attempts did not hit the rim, just the net. It'll be interesting to see if Collins will find a way to get Taphorn on the floor more.
Jordan Ash - B
4 points, 2 rebounds and 0 assists on 1/1FG and 2/2FT in 7 minutes
Ash didn't turn the ball over in his time running the point and made his only shot attempt as well as knocking down two free throws. It's tough to make an impact in only 7 minutes, but Ash showed that he's able to play custodian when McIntosh needs a rest and Collins wants to play Demps off the ball.