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Northwestern smashes and grabs vs. Illinois: Love that Tempo-free

The message board stalwarts may have "flipped" on this team and given up, but don't tell that to Reginald Effing Hearn. Let's go under the hood of a big win over the reeling Illini.

Drop it like it's Swop.
Drop it like it's Swop.

Used the Worldwide leader to calculate the stats.

Pace and Points per Possession

I calculated 59.4 for the 'Cats, while Illinois had 62, let's split the difference and set it at 61.

NU: 1.11 PPP
Illinois: 0.88 PPP

NU pulled off the Burn effectively, slowing the game down at the speed of one of those Case Tractors (Yay BTN commercials!), and making the most of their possessions.

Four Factors

Effective Field Goal Percentage
NU: 58.3%
Illinois: 41.8%

Turnover Percentage
NU: 23.0%
Illinois: 29.5%

Offensive Rebound Percentage
NU: 15.8%
Illinois: 41.9%

Free Throw Attempts / Field Goal Attempts
NU: 86.1% (!)
Illinois: 40.8%

Takes on the Tempo Free

  • The 'Cats sported a Michigan-esque 58.3% eFG, which made up for their soft defensive glass. (However, there was a ton of garbage offensive boards in the last 8 minutes - I thought we did pretty well for most of the game in this department).
  • Illinois couldn't protect the ball -if their 29.5% Turnover rate tonight was their season average, would rate them 346th in the country in that stat. That's how miserable they were. We were below our season average of 17%, but Illinois inept shooting didn't kill us.
  • Finally, the 'Cats lived at the line. I can't recall a time we had 86% FTA/FGA. We came in averaging 35%, and consider that 'Nova leads the country with a 51.5% rate in the stat, and that gives you a sense that this was a special night in this statistic. Pair that with the 'Cats shooting 83% (!) from the stripe, and this made up for the fact that we got only 3 FGs in the 2nd half. We were 26-31 from the stripe. If we shoot our season average, then its 6 fewer points. That's a 2-3 possession swing, and a much tighter game. Finally, tonight we got 37% of our total points from FTs, and we entered tonight averaging 20.5% of our total points from the stripe. I don't expect that to be the norm, but that even the last few years we've only averaged 17% of our total points from FTs.

Burning Storylines

Savvy Veteran Watch

Sobo: 34 m, 12 pts, 2 reb, 6 asts, 3 TO
Reg: 39 m, 20 pts, 2 reb, 1 stl, 1 TO, 9-10 FT
Swop: 36 m, 12 pts, 6 reb, 1 ast, 1 stl, 3 TO

Coach Carmody asked for the Veterans (Seniors) to step up, and they stepped up tonight. Big Reg loves Assembly Hall. The TOs were higher than usual, but that's due to the aggressive desperation pressure defense. These three combined for a 65% eFG, and 76% from FT. Nitpicks: Sobo fouling out in the span of 10 minutes, and seeing Swop miss both technical foul FTs.

How'd we do at the 5?

AO: 21 m, 2 pts, 4 rebs, 2 TO
Mike Turner: 15 m, 0 pts, 0 reb, 1 ast, 2 stl, 1 TO, 5 PF

Didn't get much from the 5 tonight, but we survived because Illinois has no interior game either. Mike Turner had trouble with the fouls, but he just seemed more comfortable facilitating our offense, and keeping up with Illinois faster bigs. Tonight wasn't a good matchup for Alex Olah, but he does need to get his minutes. Also, we played small - Marcotullio put in a few spot minutes at the 5 when we needed better ball handlers.

Life without Drew Crawford and Jershon Cobb

Kale Abe: 13 m, 2 pts,
Alex Marco: 24 m, 12 pts, 3 reb, 1 ast, 1 stl, 3 TO
Tre Demps: 17 m, 10 pts, 4 reb, 1 TO

As Marco goes, so goes the team? He was the long range sniper we needed. That contribution was almost erased with speculative passes, but Illinois was so flummoxed on offense it didn't matter. Finally, Tre Demps was rock steady providing good minutes when Sobo needed rest, as well as providing that second ball handler down the stretch. Though Tre didn't hit from distance, he was able to convert on some penetration, and went 6-6 for Free Throws. His clutch FTs prevented this from being a repeat of the Baylor near-loss.

Anything Else?

  • JM3 got some cleanup. Otherwise, Coach Carmody rotated 8 guys tonight, which is a far cry from the 6 person skeleton that got the win at Chambana last year.


  • We played man-to-man the whole game. Whither the kraken?

  • While the win was a bit of a surprise, it goes to show you that NU can win if it can execute its system - athleticism be damned. (Also: Look at Wisconsin beating Indiana.) Because our offense is so intricate, it's going to be up to the vets - Sobo, Reggie, Marco to carry this team. Swop is still finding his place in our system, but I'm hoping he turned a corner tonight - especially on that clutch and one he drew on Egwu that "iced" the game.

  • Now that we do the BURN, I've been watching the games in terms of possessions. We were 5 possessions up at the half, and while they chopped into our lead, we never let it get lower than 3 possessions. The 'Cats found ways to answer (mainly by draining FTs), and as time dwindled down, I didn't mind the "empty possessions" as long as chewed up clock. My mantra for the BURN Offense - "These are your priorities in order of importance: Get points, get fouled, or get clock."
  • Illinois didn't look prepared to defend the Princeton offense tonight, and I wonder how much that has to do with Groce being new to the B1G. And yeah, the Illini are in a bad stretch right now, and I can hear the doubters - "That wasn't a ranked team out there." Despite the chicken littles in Chambana, they can right the ship - they've got way too much backcourt talent and athleticsm not to. However, I'd probably downgrade them from Elite, and 5 games in I'd re-order the league this way (and mashup with the English Footy Leagues):

Barclay's Premiership: Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio State

N-Power Championship: Wisconsin, Michigan State, Illinois, Purdue

N-Power Division 1: Iowa, Northwestern, Penn State, Nebraska
      • I see the Prem + Championship as postseason hoops (NCAA + NIT, though I could see the league bagging 8 bids) And to borrow the promotion/relegation theme - I see the bottom 2 of the Prem able to fall into the Championship as well as the top 2 of the Championship able to jump into the Prem; and continue on down the ranks. (i.e. Iowa and/or Northwestern could jump into the Championship, while Illinois and/or Purdue could drop to Division 1). That concludes this week's segment of "How can we fuse Euro soccer into this week's Tempo-free take?"
  • Moving forward: It's a Black-out game on Sunday afternoon against the visiting Indiana Hoosiers. They gonna be ornery, and have a ton of weapons. They could work inside with Zellar; they could gun from outside with Ferrell/Hulls; or just lean on the dynamism of Oladipo. The 'Cats are going to have to BURN it again.