Northwestern appears to be back on track after a relatively disappointing start to the season, albeit because of two victories over two mid-majors in Chicago State and Valparaiso. While Chicago State is one of the worst Division I teams in the nation, Valpo is a top 100 win, per KenPom. The Wildcats' beatdown Thursday was impressive, and should give NU a lot of confidence as it closes its non-conference slate of games, which look to be winnable. Here are some takeaways from the game.
1. This was NU's most complete game of the season
Yes, beating Chicago State by 65 points was a more lopsided game, but Valpo is leaps and bounds better than the Cougars, so this blowout meant more. And yes, Valpo was missing its leading scorer, Tevonn Walker, who averages better than 16 points per game. But still, Northwestern worked the Crusaders on both ends of the floor in a game that was over quickly after it began.
Northwestern's scorching hot start from beyond-the-arc, in large part thanks to four early triples by Vic Law Jr., was an offensive explosion unlike any Northwestern had displayed all year, save for part of the Creighton game and the Chicago State game. NU shot over 50 percent (12-of-22) from three.
And, on the defensive end, where a lot of NU's problems have come this season, Valpo had trouble getting easy baskets all night. It's a lot easier to contain a team down its top playmaker, but the Northwestern defense was more than good. It was suffocating.
The starters were able to get some valuable rest, which was important. More important than the win, which was more or less expected, was the performance, which was thoroughly dominant. Just what the doctor ordered.
2. Aaron Falzon is finding his rhythm
Northwestern's proclaimed sharpshooter has looked the part as of late, hitting four threes in 19 minutes against Chicago State and both of his two attempts against Valpo. He struggled to find the game against a big Purdue team, but his insertion into the starting lineup has proved to be a solid move.
Falzon still hasn't broken out against a big time opponent yet, but he looks more and more confident on the floor, which is a great sign for the team.
3. Vic Law Jr. is Northwestern's best player
Before the season, there was some speculation about who Northwestern's best player was. That speculation has been quickly erased.
Bryant McIntosh still runs everything, and Scottie Lindsey is probably the best pure scorer, but Law has emerged as the top overall player on the team.
Law can explode from three — he lit up Creighton, and poured in 5-of-7 threes against Valpo en route to a game-high 18 points. He's a GREAT rebounder, averaging nearly six per game. and, as is often noted, he's one of the best one-on-one defenders in the conference. His shooting stroke is still funky and sometimes inconsistent, but the season he's having — including shooting over 45 percent from three — might just vault him onto a draft board or two as a three-and-D guy.
4. Tino Malnati and Charlie Hall (sadly) are still scoreless
Both walk-ons played solid late-game minutes against Chicago State and Valpo, but neither was able to get on the scoresheet. It should be noted that Malnati grabbed two rebounds and Hall blocked a shot in the win. The two fan favorites have yet to score for Northwestern, but, when they do — and I mean when, not if — we're completely here for it. It's a matter of time. YA GOTTA BELIEVE!