By: Henry Ettinger
The Northwestern Men’s Basketball team will look for its second straight win of the season when they face-off against the Eastern Washington Eagles on Monday night in Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Coming off their first 20-win season in school history, the Wildcats started off the 2016-2017 season with a resounding 94-63 victory over the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils. After missing last season because of shoulder surgery, Vic Law looked like his old self again scoring 18 points and adding six boards. However, Law had five turnovers and will look to improve in that category in his second game back.
On the other side of the things, Eastern Washington enters this season with high hopes and growing expectations for the program. After winning the Big Sky Conference and making to the NCAA tournament in the 2014-2015 season, the 2015-2016 Eagles followed that up with the school’s first ever national postseason victory in the CBI against Pepperdine. They kicked off this season with a 70-47 victory over Linfield on Friday.
Although Northwestern will be favored, Eastern Washington is no stranger to pulling off upsets over Big 10 teams. The Eagles knocked off Indiana in their last matchup with a Big 10 team in 2014. Here are the keys to the game.
Northwestern shot a solid 11-26 from the three-point line in their season opener against MVSU. Sharpshooters Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey were a combined 6-10 from behind the arc. However, Eastern Washington led the Big Sky in opponent three-point field goal percentage last season.
Eastern Washington also likes to shoot it from deep. Last season, the Eagles set a school record in three-pointers made in a season with 356. In their season opener, they went 16-32 from behind the arc. Felix Van Hofe had seven three-pointers and Cody Benzel added five more.
Both teams will have their three-point shooting defense tested.
As it often does, rebounding will play a huge role in this matchup between a Power 5 and mid-major team. The Wildcats dominated the glass in their season opener with a +18 rebounding margin. The normally undersized Northwestern big men will probably find it a bit easier to get boards against an Eastern Washington team with no players over 6-foot-8. Eastern Washington ranked 9th in defensive rebounding percentage in the Big Sky last season, so they will have to find a way to keep the Wildcats from getting second-chance opportunities.
Eastern Washington ranked dead last in the Big Sky in turnovers last season averaging 21 turnovers per game. The Wildcats had 17 points off 12 MVSU turnovers in their first game, so the Eagles cannot afford to give up the ball if they want to stay in the game on Monday night.