Welp, that was a bit too close for comfort.
After allowing Mississippi Valley State (considered one of the ten worst teams in the country by KenPom.com) to hang around for far too long, Northwestern finally pulled away down the stretch and won by a somewhat deceptive 13.
While Drew Crawford scored just 4 points in 15 minutes thanks to foul trouble, the NU offense was not the problem tonight, as Reggie Hearn had 23 points on 12 shots, Jared Swopshire had 22 points on 11 shots, and Dave Sobolewski had 13 second half points after a slow start. For the game, NU shot a solid 50% from the field, including 12 of 23 from behind the arc. The only thing to complain about was 15 of 26 from the free throw line.
So as you might have guessed, defense was the issue. And it was a major issue. NU played man to man all night, and looked incompetent. A guy for MVSU named Devon Usher, who was playing in his third career Division 1 game, looked like an All-American, scoring 35 points on 7 of 8 three point shooting. Usher hit a few tough shots, but NU continually left him alone behind the three point line.
Worse, Northwestern could not stop MVSU"s guards from getting to the basket. Time and again, a Delta Devil would get into the lane with little resistance and either have a lay-up or pass it off to someone wide open under the basket. If this is happening against a SWAC team, I don't even want to think about Big Ten teams will do.
- Swopshire's jumper looked great, hitting five out of six threes, but he was quite sloppy with the basketball, turning it over 5 times. The most egregious came when he got his pocket picked dribbling it up the court.
- Hearn was Northwestern's best player tonight, making hustle plays all over the court. Incredible how far he has come.
- Sobolewski finally started to make some shots in the second half, he had gone 4 straight games without a field goal dating back to last season.
- Alex Olah's minutes were limited due to foul trouble but he did show off a nice mid-range jump shot. He has a lot of confidence in himself early in his career, which is great to see. His post defense needs to improve though, too often he let his man easy establish great position.
- Mike Turner managed to foul out in 15 minutes, mostly because he's completely unable to set a screen without moving into the defender. I thought with Davide Curletti gone, the moving screens would stop, but his spirit lives on in Turner.
- The rest of the bench didn't get much run; Abrahamson played just 2 minutes despite Tuesday's strong showing, and Tre Demps only played 10. It's clear Demps isn't afraid to shoot, he got six shots up there in those minutes, making two. Alex Marcotullio played 23 quiet minutes, scoring just 4 points.
Even though it was way too close for much of the game, a win is a win, and it was nice to see the offense look good without Crawford. However, the defense needs to improve rapidly before the schedule gets more difficult.