Northwestern played one more tune up game before their first serious test against Columbia on Friday. They did fine. Fairfield is a very not good, very small, very unathletic team. But thanks to some handsy defending and illegal screen setting, Northwestern got in foul trouble. Fairfield hit some threes (some might call them lucky threes) to hang around, at multiple points cutting the Northwestern lead to just 3. But Northwestern regrouped, buckled down, and gutted out a nervy win. Did we actually learn anything? It’s hard to say. There’s gulf of talent between just about about every one of NU’s non-conference opponents and the Big Ten slate, so to let Fairfield hang around is unsettling. But other Big Ten teams have already lost to lesser opponents *cough cough Illinois cough cough,* so I’m never going to be upset with a W. Here are some thoughts.
- Aaron Falzon is going to bust up a lot of zones this year. He may still be a little slow defensively and come Big Ten season it certainly won’t be this easy to find open looks, but if he’s given an open 3, it is almost certainly going in. To be able to rotate him and Taphorn at that “shooting spot” really opens up some space.
- McIntosh is such a patient player. He never forces the action, but if the defense decides to sleep on him for a second, he’ll make you pay. He probably can take over a game, but he seems really comfortable in that secondary role. He was very clearly the best player for the Wildcats today.
- Alex Olah should’ve had a double-double in this game. He’s good enough now to be able to absolutely eat his matchup alive if an opposing team is going to put a 6-8 stick on him like Fairfield did. But he let himself get out-positioned and out leaped for some boards, and Chris Collins played Joey Van Zegeren perhaps a little more than he wanted to in the first half. The loss of Vic Law really shows up in the rebounding game. Without his athletic ability on the glass, players like Lumpkin, Falzon, and Lindsey are really going to have to work hard on the glass. Against bigger teams, that’s going to really prove to be a problem.
- Northwestern’s 2-guards, Tre Demps and Scottie Lindsey, didn’t play exceedingly well tonight. Both weren’t afraid to shoot it, but neither we all that efficient. Demps went 4-16 from the field and 0-7 from deep. Lindsey went 2-7 from the floor, but hit half of his 4 threes. Nothing wrong with a little ride-or-die action from your shooters. Bottom line is that a contested shot from Tre Demps is a better shot than an open look from most anyone else. For Lindsey to be an important player though, he needs to be efficient. He’s going to get a lot of open looks on the perimeter, and defenses are never going to key on him.
- Fairfield had a player on their bench listed at 5-6. Fairfield also measures official heights while making their players stand on a phone book.
- Always fun to see the Princeton Offense come back to Evanston, even when it’s run poorly by a really bad team.
- The new “directives” or “points of focus” or whatever for officiating are really annoying. Fairfield was in the bonus in the second half with 14 minutes to play. Olah picked up his 3rd a minute and a half later. Van Zegeren, Taphorn, and McIntohsh also had 3 by the under 12. I get that there always has to be an adjustment period, but my goodness just let them play. Foul shooting contests are not exciting.
- Northwestern is going to be in for a dogfight on Friday. Columbia is a good team, and certainly a class up from Fairfield. NU is going to have to bring it to go 3-0.