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Three takeaways from Northwestern’s convincing rout of Detroit Mercy

The ‘Cats dominated the Titans 91-59 at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

@NUMensBball Twitter

After a week off for finals, the ‘Cats (7-1, 1-0 B1G) got rolling again on Sunday against Detroit Mercy (0-10, 0-2 Horizon League). Putting the joy of beating No. 1 Purdue (again) in the rearview mirror, Northwestern was able to lock in and take care of business, defeating the Titans 91-59. Without major contributions from leading scorer Boo Buie, Northwestern leaned on some of its secondary scorers to get the job done, and they did more than enough. Here are three takeaways from the blowout victory:

Nick Martinelli is legitimately better than last year

Yes, I know it was against an 0-10 Horizon League team, but Martinelli’s career day is impossible to ignore. The sophomore racked up 22 points, leading the team, on 10-of-12 shooting, to go along with six rebounds. He did this all in just 23 minutes of playing time. Those are pretty ridiculous numbers, especially for a guy who has been just a rotational piece for his entire career so far.

Martinelli impressed enough as a freshman to see minutes down the stretch, but they were not significant (he averaged 9.9 minutes last season). Heading into this year, it was relatively uncertain what kind of expanded role he would play, if any, and whether he would show noticeable improvement. Well, after yesterday, he has.

Is Martinelli capable of regularly contributing to the number on the scoreboard to this extent? No. Northwestern will play better teams, and he will take more of a back seat. But is it realistic to see him play quality minutes off the bench with a knack for putting the ball through the bucket? Absolutely.

It’s officially time to worry about Matt Nicholson

“Big Matt” didn’t get in foul trouble against the Titans, yet he still played just 22 minutes and scored just five points. Perhaps even more concerning, the 7-foot senior only corralled five boards in the contest. The game brought Nicholson’s season averages to 4.9 points and 3.6 rebounds, down from his marks of 6.3 points and 5.4 rebounds a season ago.

Nicholson’s statistical regression so far this season has not been good, and if he doesn’t get into gear here soon, it’s an enormous problem for Northwestern. Somehow, the Wildcats got past Purdue without an effective Nicholson, but that isn’t going to happen consistently in Big Ten play. The ‘Cats need him; they really do. Otherwise, it’s up to an inexperienced Luke Hunger and transfer Blake Preston to pick up the slack.

Nicholson doesn’t have to be a world-beater on the offensive end of the floor, but he should be contributing more than this. Boo Buie said he and Zach Edey were the two best players in the country. He has certainly been the best post player on his own team, and that can’t be the case.

Ty Berry might be breaking out

Early on this season, it looked as if Northwestern had three go-to scorers: Buie, Ryan Langborg and Brooks Barnhizer. Now, a fourth may be emerging in Ty Berry. Berry was magnificent against Purdue, helping to drag the ‘Cats across the finish line with some crucial threes in overtime. He followed up that performance with 16 points against Detroit Mercy on 6-of-8 shooting.

The biggest difference between Berry last year and Berry this year has been his efficiency. He shot 34.2% from the floor last season, as well as 29.1% from beyond the arc. His jumper looked flat all season, and you could sense the frustration. That has not been the case so far in his senior season. Berry is shooting the lights out, knocking down 49.3% of shots from the field, and 45% of his threes.

Berry’s shot looks smoother and has more arc. He’s also pulling up from NBA distance less often, which I’m sure Chris Collins is thrilled about. Inconsistency plagued Berry last season, and there’s always a chance he comes and goes as a scorer throughout this season, but he’s put us all on notice. Berry might be here to stay as a major contributing piece for this year’s Northwestern team.

The No. 25 Wildcats will be back in action Wednesday night to take on Chicago State at Welsh-Ryan Arena.