The NUmbers Guy: Northwestern Basketball off to Mixed Start

WNUR’s Jim Sannes (@JimSannes) analyzes the first week of the regular season for the Northwestern Wildcats men’s and women’s basketball teams and breaks it down with his three up and three down.

Thank the sweet baby Jesus we can take a brief reprieve from talking about football. One can only cry so many tears. Now, we get to turn to the (comparatively) shimmering beacon of hope that is Northwestern basketball. That’s a mild exaggeration considering the men’s and women’s teams combined for a 26-36 record last year, but whatevski.

After the opening weekend of play, a couple of things were evident: offering students free pizza equals a decent bump in attendance, and this season is going to be exciting if nothing else. Let’s break down the weekend three up/three down style.


Photo by Nam Y. Huh, AP

Photo by Nam Y. Huh, AP

57: Drew Crawford shot 57 percent from the field in his return after shoulder surgery in NU’s 72-55 victory over Eastern Illinois Saturday.

This helps with my Reggie Hearn withdrawal. Doo Doo went dirty from downtown, draining five of his seven three-point attempts (and sending our Sammy Levitt to his happy place during Saturday’s broadcast). He also picked up 11 boards and added an emphatic block a few minutes into the game.

Saying that the ‘Cats struggled last year without Crawford is about as obvious as saying Ricky Rubio loves to be tickled. It’s just an accepted fact. But, if Crawford can provide a consistent (being the key word) scoring threat offensively and a presence on the glass, Northwestern will see improvement over last year.

42: The women’s team’s freshmen combined to post 42 points in their respective debuts in NU’s 79-63 victory over UIC Sunday.

The men’s team has Chris Collins to bring excitement; the women’s team has Nia Coffey, Christen Inman and Ashley Deary. If you’re not giddy as a galloping goat about these three, then you probably also hate freedom and a good Carly Rae Jepsen tune. Shame on you.

Coffey, the McDonald’s High School All-American, led the team with 19 points (7-12 shooting), but also had four rebounds, five blocks and three steals. She was held to 25 minutes due to foul trouble (more on that later), but this performance has to bring a smile to Joe McKeown’s face.

Although Inman finished 1-6 from the field, she hit all 10 of her free throw attempts to post 12 points  on the night. Inman, despite having four fouls to her credit, clocked three rebounds, two assists and two steals over 33 minutes. She got the start as the third guard in the line-up as McKeown went with Coffey at the four and Alex Cohen at center, a line-up that gives the ‘Cats a dangerous presence across the board.

With Karly Roser out due to an “upper-body injury”, Deary cracked the starting line-up at the point, as well. The 5’4”-spark plug led the team with four steals and tied Maggie Lyon with six assists. The only real problem was her 4-8 day from the stripe. The team combined to shoot 68.4 percent on its 38 free throw attempts, so that is something that will need to be addressed moving forward. Overall, scoring 79 points in a game in which your starting line-up is freshman-freshman-freshman-sophomore-junior isn’t too dang shabby.

8: JerShon Cobb doled out eight assists in his return to the Northwestern line-up.

A lot of people are ragging on the men’s team for the upcoming season saying that all they added from last year was Nate Taphorn. Hellloooooooooooo. #FREEJERSHON. Then you re-add Crawford and get Sanjay Lumpkin off of an injury-riddled season. What does that leave you? With four of your top six players being guys that weren’t there after the tenth game last year. That’s significant.

By the end of his sophomore year, Cobb was one of the best players on the floor each night. This includes an ill 24-point, eight-rebound performance in a loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament that ultimately doomed the ‘Cats to the NIT again.

Against Eastern Illinois, Cobb had exactly half of the team’s 16 assists and topped that with nine points of his own. I’m sure Collins would love for Cobb to step up and become the No. 2 scorer behind Crawford, but for now creating shots for others and playing spectacular on-ball defense appears to be Cobb’s niche.


49: The men’s and women’s teams combined to commit 49 total fouls in the two games this weekend.

Sooooo, they weren’t joking about cracking down on fouls, were they? Sheesh. For the men, Crawford, Alex Olah and Niko Cerina all had four fouls. The women saw both Cohen and Lauren Douglas foul out. If these were conference games, both teams would have been toeing some serious cow dung.

The effects on the defense are obvious, but this also could harm Northwestern if their free throw shooting doesn’t improve from where it was last year. The men shot 67.9 percent as a team with the women at 69.7 percent. The positive? Dave Sobolewski, who limped to a 60.3 percent mark from the line last year, finished 7-8 on Saturday.

?: The afore-mentioned injury to Roser is going to keep her out for question mark amount of time.

Roser’s status prior to Sunday’s opener was “questionable,” so it’s possible that the junior Canadian (not relevant, but still awesome) point guard will return soon. However, if not, Northwestern’s back court is going to be thin. Guards Nof Kedem and Tessa Haldes both suffered torn ACL’s this off-season and are out indefinitely, too.

This opens the door for senior captains Terri Taylor and Meghan McKeown. Taylor is one of the nicest humans to ever walk the planet and was kind enough to talk with us last week about her battle back from basically every foot/ankle injury you could think of. Check it out because shameless plug shameless plug shameless plug.

Roser had started all 60 of her previous games at Northwestern and has averaged at least 33 minutes in each of her first two years. She averaged 9.4 points and 6.27 assists per game last year; that’s a big void to fill. If Roser’s injury does keep her out for a while, Deary will get the ever-popular trial-by-fire.

13: Eastern Illinois was able to grab 13 offensive rebounds Saturday.

As WNUR’s Jeff Eisenband mentioned last night on Wildtalk, Coach Collins referenced the stat sheet when asked about his defense in the post-game presser. He did not say that stats are for losers. I already love him.

One of the stats he cited when defending the ‘Cats defense was Eastern Illinois’ 30.2 field goal percentage. This total blech-ness certainly contributed to the Panthers’ prowess on the offensive boards, but this number is still unacceptably high. After allowing an average of 12.28 offensive rebounds per game last year, you have to assume this was a point of emphasis during the off-season. Giving up 15 to Wisconsin is one thing; giving up 13 to Eastern Illinois is completely another.

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