It could have been worse, but it also could have been a win. Instead of closing out the game in overtime after multiple comebacks — including one from down 12 points — the Wildcats faltered and fell just short to Wake Forest, losing 77-73. Here are three takeaways from NU’s overtime loss to Wake Forest.
Northwestern’s perimeter defense is a weak point
In case you needed more evidence — even after the game against Providence — to suggest that the Wildcats will struggle to guard the three this season, Wake Forest’s performance from beyond the arc last night should solidify your beliefs. The Demon Deacons finished the game shooting 10-for-25 (40%) from three. While this number isn’t anything insanely impressive, their first half performance was nothing short of a dream start. The Deacs finished the half shooting 50% from downtown, and at one point, seven of their first 10 made field goals were three pointers.
While adjustments can be made throughout the season to prevent this, the ‘Cats will inevitably face sharpshooting teams in the Big Ten all year long. It’s going to be a rough year if Northwestern is unable to guard the three ball.
Elyjah Williams is a solid rotational piece
One of Northwestern’s few offensive bright spots last night was the play of grad transfer Elyjah Williams. Williams wasn’t the Wildcats leading or even second-leading scorer, but his performance down low in the paint was fun to watch and indicates that he’s going to be a crucial piece of the puzzle come Big Ten play.
Williams finished the game against Wake Forest shooting 5-for-8 from the field. His 11 points were good enough to trail only Boo Buie and Pete Nance, who had 12 and 15 points, respectively. The Fairleigh Dickinson transfer also added four rebounds in his 20 minutes of action, and to top it all off, he finished with a team-leading plus-minus of +12. It’s very clear that when Williams is on the floor, the ‘Cats are in a better spot than when he isn’t.
Boo Buie’s struggles will cost the ‘Cats games
We’ve all been saying it for the longest time — when Buie is hot, he can score like few others can.
But when he’s cold, man, it’s rough.
Last night was one of Buie’s cold nights. Sure, the junior guard finished with 12 points, good enough for second best on the team. However, he did it on a night where he shot 4-of-11 from the field and failed to sink a three pointer. Additionally, four of his 12 points came from the free throw line.
Then there were the turnovers. Buie finished with five total last night, and there was one point where he turned the ball over three times in three minutes. All three of them were ruled lost ball turnovers. The most crucial of his five turnovers, however, came within the final seconds of overtime. Down by two with five seconds to go, Nance inbounded the ball to Buie, only to have Buie drop the ball and for Wake Forest’s Jake LaRavia to recover. That pretty much sealed it.
Is Buie the only person to blame for last night’s loss? Not at all, but his turnovers and poor shooting certainly didn’t help the ‘Cats in their efforts.