After kind of, sort of messing around with a lower division opponent that was facing a clear and obvious talent gap, Northwestern finally got its act together in the second half of its exhibition vs Lindenwood and cruised to an 85-42 win on Friday night. Here are three takeaways from the performance with the regular season fast approaching.
Ty Berry used his size and strength well
The sophomore guard was the star of the show last night, as he finished with a team-high 17 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the field in addition to a symmetric 5-for-7 performance from the foul line. The field goal marksmanship is nice, but my interest is peaked in that free throw rate. Berry is listed at 6-foot-3 and looks even bigger than that on court, and he went in for finishes fearlessly on Friday night, seeking out contact rather than avoiding it to either finish or draw the foul shots.
(Also, you have to love Pete Nance backdoor passes from the top of the key, that’s beautiful right there).
Boo Buie’s biggest weakness has been his inability to both generate at-rim attempts and finish once there. Berry’s handle is slightly behind Buie’s, but his size and strength clearly give him an advantage in this vein, and portends well to his receiving more opportunity both in this season and those upcoming.
... but the ‘Cats got beat on the other end for similar reasons
In most of the scrimmage against Lindenwood, Northwestern had its ball handler defenders chase over ball screens while bigs such as Pete Nance and Elyjah Williams were in a high/mid drop, sitting just a tick below the level of the screen to meet the guards.
There were ups and downs aplenty. Buie is still rather small and dies on screens if he can’t completely avoid them. Freshman Casey Simmons has menacing potential due to his lateral agility and length, but his lack of bulk allowed some to bully him down in the pain by getting into his chest. As for Berry, he had moments where his plus size again allowed him to push guards in the desired directions and create discomfort with his size.
However, he was too overconfident at times in this ability, and instead got slightly burned for his lack of elite first step quickness.
Berry wants to start pushing his man over the screen prematurely, but he points his toes toward the screen without fully committing, and that squared nature of his body invites the rejection of the pick from the Lindenwood guard, leading to a blow-by and a drive and kick for an open three.
Though not as bad or glaring in this case, a similar thing happened to Berry early in the second half.
Here, his strength crossed with Lindenwood’s very evident lack of strength allows him to leave the play unscathed, but he is again inviting a potential paint touch as he does not commit to directing his opponent in one direction. Berry’s size and effort will always give him a baseline of competence on the defensive end of the floor, but he could also stand to fix this deficiency on the margins to ensure his viability all the way through.
New year, same funny flaws
This is quite honestly just an excuse to talk about this sequence from Robbie Beran. These 25 seconds are basically an encapsulation of everything the junior forward has been during his last two years for Northwestern, though it of course looks a little better due to the inferior competition he’s playing.
An off-movement three (granted it was a horrible screw-up on defense from Lindenwood) that’s immediately followed by Beran feigning help defense, when he’s actually just in no man’s land, having completely forgot about his assignment in the corner for no reason at all, giving his opponents a shot they will take 10 out of 10 times. A miss bails Beran out again before he uses his athleticism to get out in transition and finish the lob.
It’s reminiscent of what I’ve always said about Beran — his rim protection and floor spacing ability make him a useful player for Collins and Co., but he always makes two mind numbing mistakes every game that have the potential to cost Northwestern dearly.
Fun season soon come!