Basketball never stops, and apparently that means that NU gets to play its 4th game in 8 days. Shoot, my legs are sore and I’m just covering this team. Northwestern is coming off a pretty decent win against Western Michigan which bumped their non-conference record to 7-4. Last time out, Northwestren overcame a poor first half by putting together maybe their best 20 minutes of the year, scoring 42 points and doing it with style. The ball moved, players moved, and Tre Demps even hit 40% of his 15 field goals. Sure, Alex Olah was more or less a passenger to the action and Sanjay Lumpkin reverted to 2013 Sanjay Lumpkin by fouling more than scoring, but Northwestern beat a team ranked higher than them in KenPom and that does mean something. Taphorn, Skelly, and Lindsey pulled the team in that second half, and while that’s comforting and bodes well for the remaining non-conference game, it might be unfair to expect those players to contribute in big ways come B1G season.
Enter UIC. UIC is bad. Really bad. Like got scrubbed 70-58 to Yale bad. Like losing by 5 to Grand Canyon bad. I think you get the picture. The Flames are 3-9, and should provide virtually no opposition for the Wildcats. Sure UIC won in 2012, but that was a strange set of circumstances, and it definitely shouldn’t happen again. UIC as a team shoots under 30% from three, while allows the opposition to shoot 46% from the floor, 39% from three, and average 71 points per game. Basically, this UIC team has all the symptoms of, well, a UIC team. Camped out at 309 in the KenPom ranks, UIC is just one spot higher than SIU-Edwardsville, whom all Wildcats should remember as that team that Northwestern took too shot clock violations against instead of scoring 100. This one shouldn’t be close, and dare I say it won’t be close. This will look a lot more like MVSU than WMU.
G: Markese McGuire (3.9 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
G: Marc Brown (8.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg)
C: Tai Odiase (5.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
G: Lance Whitaker (3.1 ppg, 1.6 rpg)
F: Jake Wiegand (13.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg)
G: Bryant McIntosh (10.0 ppg, 5.2 apg)
G: Tre Demps (10.9 ppg, 11.6 FGA/g)
F: Vic Law (8.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
F: Sanjay Lumpkin (7.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg)
C: Alex Olah (11.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg)
Just Handle Business
UIC is so bad. Sooooo bad. SOOOOOOOOOOOOO bad. NU just needs to execute, or at least pretend to execute, to get the W. No matter where you look on the court, NU will have a serious athletic mismatch, which will manifest itself in easy scoring opportunities on one end, and stifling D on the other.
Limit Demps’ Shot Attempts
Again, maybe a pipe dream. I still stand by that this offense doesn’t need Tre Demps to fire up 15 shots a game to be successful, yet that seems to be where it’s going with Demps in the starting lineup. Let’s see if Demps can keep his shot attempts in single digits. It should mean better looks and a better shooting percentage.
Try Some Things
The great thing about playing straight up disrespectfully bad teams is that you can mess around with the lineups a bit. Let’s see if Vassar gets more PT, if Lindsey can reach 20 minutes, and if Taphorn can maybe be a sixth man with Cobb still hurt. Shoot, I’d like to see a Nick Segura sighting, It could get real ugly in Evanston this afternoon.
12:55–No surprises for the Cats, as McIntosh, Demps, Law, Lumpkin, Olah will be the starting 5. Bold prediction of the day: Lindsey will be first off the bench, followed by Skelly, followed by Taphorn. I’d put a cheeky 5 on out depending on the odds.
12:59–I’m willing to set the over under for obnoxious UIC Flame puns made by yours truly on the twitter feed for around 20. And I’m definitely taking the over. #FlameOn
1:09–Goodness, NU came out hot. Not only are they making everything, I don’t even think they’ve hit the rim yet. Olah is 3-3, McIntosh drilled a triple, and NU is cruising like they should.
1:15–Well I lose my bet. Skelly the first off the bench, Taphorn the second. Good chance for Skelly to boost his confidence going up against 5’s of his height.
1:18–I’m already feeling bad for UIC, and the first half isn’t even half over. They just have no one who can do anything resembling offense.
1:25–This game is a great example of what happens to you if your guards can’t shoot. NU can double or even triple down low in the post because what is UIC going to do? Kick it to someone who’s range is limited to 10 feet? I don’t think so. It’s easy to look good defensively against the Flames.
1:29–At some point this week, I think I’m going to take a look at Law’s minutes/shots recently. It seems like he’s a lot more passive over these last few games, certainly nothing close to that Butler game.
1:38–I can’t think of a worse team to watch than UIC. There’s nothing quite like the combination of no shooters, no slashers, no big men, and no defense. They do nothing well! You wonder how a team can lose to Grand Canyon, but then you see this, and you wonder how they beat Central Florida. Goodness gracious, UIC.
UIC is as bad as I feared they would be. You won’t see a worse offense. They’ve hit a couple of lucky threes, but other than that they’ve been averaging about a point every other minute. That might win a football game, but it’s sure as heck not winning a basketball game. UIC has no player with more than three points. That’s unreal. On the other side, NU has done some good offensively, some bad. Olah made his first 4 shots on his way to 9 quick points, but only scored 1 more the rest of the half. McIntosh looks like early season McIntosh and has 10 points on 5 shots. That’s efficiency. Demps has played a lot of minutes, but hasn’t shot a lot, which is probably good. He’s 2/4 from the field. Defense is the story though. NU is doubling and trapping once the ball comes into the paint, and UIC is too inept to take advantage. It’s one of those games where you just sick the dogs on them and see what happens. It’s impossible to envision UIC coming back. At this point, the goal for NU should be to hold the Flames under 30, just because that would be kind of cool.
2:00–Imagined conversation at the officials’ halftime meeting:
“Hey this game has been really boring.”
“Yeah man, you’re right. You thinking what I’m thinking?”
“Calling every touch foul?”
“Let’s do it.”
2:07–The Wildcat lead at halftime is down to just 11. UIC has been attacking the rack and have hit some tough ones, but NU needs to help better on the defensive end. Offensively, it’s Demps being Demps, but not the good Demps right now. He’s shot it a bunch this half, but hasn’t made one. Needs to look for better shots instead of shooting the first look he sees.
2:17–The game has slowed to a crawl. Vic Law is being athletic, which has led to some easy NU buckets. UIC has improved from abysmal to bad offensively so are hanging with the Cats this half. No real causes for concerns yet though. If UIC comes back by hitting contested threes, then more power to them. The only real issue is that NU is picking up some cheap fouls on drives.
2:23–Olah spends too much time on the bench in my opinion. If he’s in a rhythm he can pile up points, but it’s easy for him to fall out of that rhythm, like what’s happening right now.
2:33–UIC is officially back in this game. UIC is still bad. But NU has taken their foot off the gas and can no longer find/make open perimeter shots. A real troubling 2nd half performance to this point.
2:39–Finally, Sanjay plays a game where he wants to shoot threes, and he’s made two of them. His shot isn’t pretty and I swear it’s on a downward trajectory it’s so flat, but he’s actually a good shooter from three this year. If he can take that straightaway triple and hit it even a third of the time, it’s huge. On these three point attempts, his guy is helping other defenders and is usually somewhere in the paint. The floor will be much bigger if Sanjay can pull his man to the three point arc.
Thank goodness it’s over. This was not a fun game to watch. UIC’s offense put me to sleep, woke me up, and then yelled at me for wondering why I ever watched them in the first place. The Flames went 15/60 from the floor. Some of it was good NU defense. They realized that UIC couldn’t consistently beat them from the outside, so they packed it in, doubled the post, and forced a bunch of turnovers. Credit to the Cats for that. But a lot of this was simply UIC being bad at basketball. How else can you possibly explain a team getting off 19 more shots than their opponent but losing by 16. That’s unreal. Northwestern’s offense was, as per usual, a mixed bag. Alex Olah hit his first 4, scored 9 quick ones, then slowed down but still finished with 17. Big day for the big man. Bryant McIntosh though was the MVP of this one. 22 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists on 7/9 shooting from the floor. We like to call that “efficiency.” He scored on floaters, layups, threes, and foul shots and made it all look so easy. Outside of those two, no body really made waves. Lumpkin hit 2 three pointers, which is huge for him. Law was athletic and had a quick spurt that caught UIC by surprise and finished with 6. The TapKelSey trio of Taphorn, Skelly, and Lindsey combined for just 5, which is probably what NU fans should expect come B1G time. The big negative offensively was Tre Demps, whose struggles continued. 3/10 from the floor, 0/4 from three, 6 points, 3 TOs, 3 fouls, two of which were charges. If Collins is going to play Demps 39 minutes in Cobb’s absence, he’s going to need the junior to deliver a lot more than those kinds of numbers. Overall perforance grade is a B-. NU shouldn’t have ever had to struggle with this one and UIC made it interesting with about 5 minutes to go in the game before falling away. NU only has one more tune-up before conference play starts. There are still a lot of things for Collins and Company to get straightened up.