Northwestern Men’s Basketball is sitting at 12-11 on the season, and in order to accomplish some of the goals they dreamed of reaching back in the preseason, the team will need to go on a run in the home stretch. That starts tomorrow with a massive game at Welsh-Ryan Arena against No. 5 Purdue.
Keys for the ‘Cats
This has been touched on in recent articles, but in order to beat one of the best teams in the country Northwestern is going to need to take smart shots. When the team got in a reachable distance of Illinois Sunday afternoon, they started to take bad shots, allowing the Illini to create some much needed breathing room once more.
Purdue has a field goal percentage of .503 while also limiting their opponents to a far worse mark at .426. The ‘Cats will need to do better than this against the Boilermakers, and it starts with Boo Buie and Chase Audige. The two guards need to be smart and disciplined with their choice of shot attempts against Purdue. On Sunday, they combined for 28 shots, and when it mattered most, the backcourt duo forced up tough ones instead of looking for open players. Not only Buie and Audige, but every Northwestern player that touches the floor will need to have good shot discernment in order to keep the game close.
In the first game against the Boilermakers, the ‘Cats allowed 12 made three pointers, six coming from Sasha Stefanovic, who had 22 points that afternoon. On Sunday in Champaign, perimeter defense was again a problem in the first half, this time with Illinois’s Alfonso Plummer doing most of the damage, as he finished tied for the team-lead with 19 points and was a primary reason why the Illini built a hole that Northwestern could not climb out of in time.
Northwestern’s perimeter defense was much better in the second half on Sunday, and it will need that improved defense for all 40 minutes Wednesday night against a Purdue team can light it up from deep.
When you look at Purdue, one of the first things that everyone, a basketball fan or not, sees is Zach Edey, a 7-foot-4 sophomore who leads the nation in field goal percentage. In their first meeting, Northwestern had no solution for Edey or Trevion Williams, who combined for 24 points and 20 rebounds.
How can Northwestern stop Edey and Williams in the second meeting? On Sunday the ‘Cats struggled with Kofi Cockburn no matter was tasked to guard the towering big man. Northwestern will have to find the right dosages of Pete Nance, Robbie Beran and Ryan Young to stop the Purdues bigs, and might even need to throw in Matthew Nicholson just to match some of the opposing height (yikes).
The ‘Cats NEED a solution in the paint if they are going to pull off one of the biggest upsets in the program’s history.