Maybe it was the jerseys.
Northwestern eschewed its normal home whites in exchange for a purple get up and proceeded to go the first 5 minutes of the game without an empty trip. Falzon had 8 points by the first media break. Northwestern didn’t really slow down except for a short five minute dry spell halfway through the first half. They shot over 50% from the field and over 40% from three. It felt that the lids that had been placed over the nets in Welsh-Ryan were finally removed.
Minnesota dared Northwestern to shoot. They went under every screen. They left players unguarded in the corners. It was a very bad strategy.
Northwestern went up against a bad team, gave them the absolute business, and Wildcat fans had to enjoy watching it. After being manhandled in the last three games, Northwestern got to dish out some revenge and clear the bench themselves. All is good in Evanston.
Stop talking about taking away Olah and Demps’ minutes. It’s not a smart argument. Olah’s health is absolutely a concern. He’s basically not practicing and is playing on 1.5 legs right now. Maybe even less than that. But when he can go, he’s very clearly Northwestern’s best option at the 5. Take this first half sequence: he was double teamed on the block and zipped a dimepiece to an open Scottie Lindsey in the corner for a three. He then got a layup in transition the next possession. Then he swatted the crap out of a dude at the rim. He’s skilled and he’s a much better defender than Pardon. Let him cook if he can make it on to the court.
Tre Demps can be a divisive presence. He’ll take his 15 shots a night, and sometimes he forces things. But he’s as close to a two-way guard as Northwestern has, and when he’s hot, he can win games by himself. He’s also the backup point guard for this team. Is the offense more stagnant when he’s running the show than when Bryant McIntosh is? Probably. But give the man some credit. He is absolutely busting his hump and he’s put together some darn good performances. Tonight’s 23 point, 8 assist, 4 rebound performance on 8-13 shooting might have been the best of the bunch.
Minnesota is a very not good team. I mean goodness gracious. Their committal to the “drive into a triple team and toss up some junk” offense coupled with their “tracking shooters on the perimeter defense is meaningless” defense is a sight to behold. A relatively rich recruiting class should keep Richard Pitino employed for another year. But. Uh. Do we have to say it? *whispers in your ear* Minnesota might be even worse than Rutger.
Zone defense back? Northwestern bailed on the funky little 2-3 matchup zone late against Iowa in favor of man-to-man and looked awfully good doing so. Today against Minnesota, the matchup zone was back. It had mixed results. It’s hard to predict future success off of playing a team whose offensive efficiency ranks 199th in the nation, but reports of the zone’s demise may have been greatly exaggerated. We’ll see if it comes back against a much more athletic but similarly offense-averse Ohio State team next Tuesday.
Beating bad basketball teams by a lot of points is fun. Ah, it feels like we’re back in non-conference stunting on UMass-Lowell again. This game wasn’t really going to dramatically change the postseason picture for the Wildcats (which is NIT or nothing at this point), but it was a chance to get back in the winning ways and maybe develop some good habits on the way. In that, they were successful. Smooth operating from everyone wh