Ben Goren here at Welsh-Ryan arena. Let’s watch a basketball game together.
1:35–Probably 20% of the crowd is consisted of the stand in pep band. Let’s call it a “muted” atmosphere 25 minutes before tip off.
1:45–Shout out to the BTN crew, mostly Shon Morris. Definitely one of my favorite broadcasters in the business. If you’re not here at Welsh-Ryan, you’re in for a treat. Not many other color guys can get away with saying “Northwestern is defending like the French in World War II,” which will always be my favorite quip ever heard on television.
1:48–Uniform watch time: WMU has numbered warmups, with what appear to be vertical stripes, and number designs ripped from the 1950s. Sometimes this kind of look works. It doesn’t for the Broncos. Ugliest warmups, and for that matter jerseys, NU has played this year. Will it throw the Wildcats off? Let’s find out. 13 minutes until tip.
1:55–Stand in pep band doing a solid job early. Good energy, song selection, banging drum line. NU takes the court.
2:01–Standard Cobb-less starting 5. McIntosh, Demps, Law, Lumpkin, Olah. Anthem time.
2:10–WMU looks like their plan is to rain threes. NU can’t get in a shooting battle against these guys. Need to do what works, which is Olah and Law in the paint.
2:13–11-2 WMU. Everyone on WMU can shoot, which means NU shouldn’t leave their guy to help on penetration. They’re doing it anyway, and WMU can’t miss.
2:19–McIntosh, Demps, Lindsey, Lumpkin, Taphorn the five on the floor. It doesn’t get any smaller.
2:24–Sometimes as a coach, you see things in a defense or offense that necessitates change. Sometimes you feel like a guy will provide energy. Sometimes you just need something that’s different, and you hope it works out. With these first half subs, it feels like it’s number 3.
2:27–Lumpkin is such a treat. His hustle and defensive intensity are fantastic, and he really does affect score lines in ways that stats don’t reflect. Now if he could just shoot some more…
2:30–16-11 WMU at the under-8. Northwestern is in foul trouble. WMU is in the bonus, and for a team that is as effective as they are from the field, you can’t give them free throws. I’m sure some fans are upset with the officiating, but it seems pretty even to me.
2:35–Gavin Skelly and Scottie Lindsey are playing a lot more today. Skelly has done some good, some bad, Lindsey has been more or less invisible. Still, I like to see their minutes go up.
2:40–Well it took 15 minutes, but NU grabs its first lead! Then WMU nails a triple to reclaim the lead. Fun while it lasted.
2:45–WMU’s offensive plan: enter ball into post, realize that no one can score from post, shoot anyway, miss, wonder why you’re losing.
2:50–Olah has such a funny game. He comes into the year shooting 60% from three, but the scouting report is still dare him to shoot jumpers if he touches it farther than 10 feet from the basket. Missed some really good looks today. I’m not sure if a wide open Olah three is good offense, but I know that once I write this, he’s going to drill one.
Where to start? If you’re following on twitter, you would know that I’m flabbergasted by WMU’s offensive game plan. They’re shooting north of 40% from three, but it seems their #1 option is to have someone post up against a much stronger and taller NU defender. It doesn’t make sense, and you have to figure WMU is going to readjust and get that right in half two. For NU, the offense has been, well, horrible. No one has more than 5, and the Cats are 2/11 from 3. That’s not good. Olah is just 1/6, and is falling into WMU’s trap. The Broncos clearly want Olah to shoot jump shots. Olah is happy to oblige, and he couldn’t get any of them to go in the first half. The big man has been a second half player all year, but he needs to change his shot selection if he wants to get it back on track. Northwestern, like WMU, wants to pound it to the low block, but give WMU some credit, because they’re taking away easy entry passes. Either NU needs some high low passes in the post or some more screens to open up Law/Lumpkin/Olah, because right now they can’t get the ball where they want. NU had a chance to grab a real lead in this one, but they missed an opportunity and WMU hit some shots to jump back in front. It’s anyone’s game going into half two. Both teams have a bunch of adjustments to make. Expect the second half to have little to no resemblance of the first one.
3:12–Lindsey gets nod over Law at start of the second half. I like it. I don’t like Bryant McIntosh’s shot selection so far.
3:17–NU takes the lead 32-29 at the under 16. The offense has woken up thanks to some perimeter jump shots going down. On the other end, WMU has had a lot of open threes, they just can’t get one to drop. Big chance for NU to open this one up a little before the Broncos reheat from the outside.
3:25–It’s a 5-point game, you’re team has been missing some easy looks, but you’re right in it. So naturally, you get yourself T’d up. It don’t get no dumber than that for WMU’s head ball coach.
3:29–NU is controlling the proceedings right now, which is not something I expected to be writing about this game. WMU’s shooting this half has completely left them, and with Connar Tava still insisting on throwing up bad lay-ups, their offense has sputtered. NU’s offense is clicking too, scoring 20 points in the first 9 minutes. It’s all going right right now. If they can keep the pedal to the metal, NU has a really good chance of closing this one out.
3:34–Demps is having one of those Demps games where he provides much needed offense, but also makes you want to tear your hair out sometimes. So basically, it’s Demps being Demps. 50-45 NU at the under 8.
3:43–Connar Tava is like Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Along Came Polly. You can almost hear him yell “RAIN MAN” as he clangs another shot. NU’s offense has done enough to take advantage of a Bronco team that has forgotten how to put the ball in the hoop, and are up 7 with 5 minutes to play. Gotta say, it’s looking good for the Cats.
3:50–NU is bleeding clock, and have been for the last 90 seconds. It’s way too early for that, especially against a team that can hit threes. NU is giving WMU a way back into this one.
3:57–NU will be fouled from here on in, up 5 at the line. Neither team is shooting near 60% from there today, which is part of the reason this game has been pretty hard to watch.
3:59–This one is effectively over NU is up 9 with under a minute to go. They were helped along by some abysmal WMU offense, but NU will score around 40 points in the second half, which is huge for a team that has struggled to score this year. Is this a huge win? No. Is it a useful win? Absolutely.
Well they got it done. It sure wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. Behind 17 Tre Demps points (6/15 FG, 3/9 3FG), and double digit performances from Bryant McIntosh and Nate Taphorn, the Wildcats scored 42 second half points to erase a small halftime deficit and run away from Western Michigan. Western Michigan is ranked ahead of Northwestern in the KenPom standings, so this win technically counts as an upset. Northwestern really needed this. After getting beat by Central Michigan, a bounce back was needed, and a bounce back occurred. It was a scrappy effort, one marked by rotations that Wildcat fans probably didn’t expect. Lindsey played 16 minutes. Taphorn played 20. Gavin Skelly played 14. According to Chris Collins postgame, they were the “catalyst” to this win. Are those names you can expect to shoulder the load going forward? Maybe. But against a fairly unathletic MAC team, they were able to control proceedings for major stretches of the game. For Western Michigan though, they have to be disappointed. They shot just 13-23 from the foul line. If they shot closer to their season clip of near 75%, this one could’ve ended very differently. But, of course, would’ve, could’ve, should’ve doesn’t mean anything in the win-loss column. Northwestern beat a decent team today. There are still a lot of kinks to work out, but for now, let’s just enjoy some positivity. Lord knows this fanbase could use it.