Typical formula for success for Northwestern; excellent field goal shooting combined with not turning the ball over. The Blackbirds did manage a lot of offensive rebounds and got to the free throw line a ton, but they came into the game in the top 40 nationally in both categories, so not all that disappointing.
Defensively, Carmody mostly went with the match-up zone, and while it did a pretty good job of preventing easy shots, the 'Cats did too much hacking and got into foul trouble in the first half, forcing a brief switch to the 1-3-1. LIU was held under a point per possession, and while that was in part due to poor Blackbird free throw shooting, I'm not going to complain too much about the defensive effort. A big factor keeping the 'Cats from being a tough defensive team is the lack of a shot blocker; Luka doesn't have anywhere near the quickness or leaping ability to rotate over from the help side and deny smaller opponents as they attack the rim.
- I'm running out of superlatives to describe the play of John Shurna. His stat line speaks for itself, 26 points on 10-11 shooting, 7 rebounds and 7 assists. I was most impressed with his passing last night; he did a great job of getting into the middle of LIU's 2-3 zone and kicking it out to open shooters. The only negative was his 4 for 10 performance from the free throw line, but I'm not gonna waste time worrying about that; Shurna is too good a shooter to let free throws become a lingering problem.
- Drew Crawford had a disappointing night, scoring just 8 points on 4 of 16 shooting and not getting to the free throw line once. Crawford seems to be falling in love with the contested 16 foot fadeaway jumper, which is just about the most inefficient shot in basketball: stop taking those please. The lack of free throws was particularly galling because one, the refs were calling the game very tight, and two, SoP nation was requesting a screen shot of his flat-top fade, and the foul line would have been the perfect spot to acquire such a screen shot. I did eventually manage this though:
If he can fine-tune that hair style, the sky is the limit for Crawford.
- Despite an off-night from the perimeter (4 for 13 on threes), Michael Thompson still had an excellent overall game, with 16 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds and 3 steals (one of those steals came on an errant LIU entry pass that was headed out of bounds, but Juice went flying into the cheerleaders to save it and pad his steal stats, well done Juice). I don't have any problem with him taking 13 threes; his strength as a scorer is perimeter shooting and LIU kept leaving him open on the wing, as long as they're open looks I'm fine with Juice taking as many threes as he wants.
- JerShon Cobb looked like he was headed for a huge night, with 9 points in the first 5 minutes, but picked up his 2nd foul early in the first half and had to sit. Cobb is going to blow up for 20+ at some point during non-conference play, mark my words.
- Luka had a quiet night, playing just 17 minutes due to foul trouble. Davide Curletti showed some nice touch in the low post on his way to 7 points, and Ivan Peljusic didn't turn the ball over in his 7 minutes, so a solid showing from the backup centers.
- Juice got some rare rest midway through the second half, and in his place Jeff Ryan and Alex Marcotullio ran the point. Ryan is a competent ball-handler against the LIU's of the world, but I don't like his chances vs. Big Ten guards, and he continues to be a complete non-factor offensively, only contributing 3 for 4 foul shooting in the final minute when LIU was trying to extend the game. Marcotullio also scares me vs. Big Ten guards (who can forget him trying to bring the ball up vs Chris Kramer last year and getting bitchmade) but he can at least be a dangerous 3 point shooter.
Northwestern was sluggish at times last night, but that's to be expected coming off a 2 week lay-off. The win was never really in doubt, and that's the important thing. The 'Cats are back in action Thursday night against American, in a game that will actually be televised on the Big Ten Network, so see everyone then.