Ed McCants, who was discussed here earlier this week, is probably the guy to ever play for both Northwestern and Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and were he watching the game last night, he would have been really proud of the way everyone were gunning from 3-point range. The two teams combined to attempt 67 threes, and that part of the box score was pretty even, and NU hit 12 of 34 and UWM hit 11 of 33. And UWM actually shot better than NU from inside the arc, making 12 of 18 twos while NU hit just 10 of 24.
So how did the Cats manage to win by 9? Well, it was two factors that haven't exactly been a staple of success for NU over the years: offensive rebounding and the 1-3-1 zone. NU managed to rebound almost half of their misses, as all 5 starters had at least 2 offensive boards, and the 1-3-1 completely stifled UWM for much of the night, forcing 16 total turnovers and holding the Panthers scoreless for a 9 minute stretch in the first half, allowing NU to open up a 16 point lead they would never relinquish. Even when UWM got within 6 with about 5 minutes left, you never really got worried as NU fan; the Cats were clearly the better team.
- Milwaukee looked completely lost defensively against NU's Princeton offense. UWM started the game in man to man, but quickly switched to a zone as NU had little trouble scoring early. Against the zone, Northwestern did a great job of getting into the middle of the zone and kicking it out to open shooters, and MIlwaukee was scrambling around so much that they weren't in position to box anyone out; hence all the offensive rebounds. NU didn't shoot the ball well at all last night, struggling to convert some easy chances at the rim and hitting below their season average from three, but still scored well over a point per possession because they hit 14 of 16 from the line and had so many second chance points.
- John Shurna was back to his early season form, scoring 25 points on just 14 shots and grabbing 8 rebounds. He was also fearlessly attacking the basket, going up hard for a dunk in traffic early in the second half (he missed it, but got fouled on the play). The 25 points were his highest since the St. John's game; it looks like he's finally healthy again.
- Juice Thompson had 20 points and 6 assists, and left to a standing ovation in the final seconds. A nice way to go out in his final career home game.
- Alex Marcotullio has been a nice surprise the last few games, doing a good job filling in for the injured JerShon Cobb. He played 37 minutes, scored 13 points (although he was just 3 for 12 from the field), and did a nice job at the top of the 1-3-1 zone. However, he continues to attempt super high risk passes to teammates who are well-defended, usually leading to turnovers. If he were a quarterback, he'd be Rex Grossman: insistent on heaving it down-field looking for the big play rather than making the safe pass underneath to the open man. Marcotullio may actually be the "quarterback" (point guard) of this offense next year, so he needs to stop doing that.
- Drew Crawford had a quiet 32 minutes, scoring just 6 points and missing all of his jump shots. Remember last year, when people were worried he was going to leave early for the NBA? Ok, it wasn't very many people, but still, they were out there. Yeah, probably not gonna happen. Crawford has improved as a rebounder and a defender this season, but his inability to hit the open three with any consistency is worrisome, as his career percentage is headed towards Jeremy Nash territory. Improving his outside shooting has to be priority number one for him in the off-season.
- Luka Mirkovic did a nice job, with 8 rebounds and 4 assists. He passed the ball extremely well out the high post; it seemed like he had more than 4 assists. He didn't look for his own shot at all on offense, hitting just 1 of 2 field goals in 26 minutes, but that's fine, he's the fifth option on that end of the court.
- The bench did absolutely nothing, as Davide Curletti was invisible in his 12 minutes, Mike Capocci channeled his entire Damien Anderson and kept dropping passes, while Nick Fruendt's deal with the devil must have expired as he looked totally lost and over-matched in his brief 4 minutes on the court. Probably gonna need something out of this crew Saturday against BC.