In case you missed it, or were put to sleep by it, Northwestern did beat Rutgers 51-47 on the road, notching their first Big Ten win of the year in their Big Ten opener. This is a very good thing. For as terrible (and make no mistake, they are terrible) Rutgers is, it is still a Big Ten road win, and, for at least a fleeting moment, Northwestern was on top of the Big Ten. The game was really bad. Like really bad. Like NU going 10:16 without a bucket from floor or foul line while turning it over four times bad. Let’s get something cleared up right now: there is not another Big Ten team that you can get away with that kind of stretch against and win.
For as frustrating as Purdue has been, for as lightly regarded Penn State was at the start of the year, both those teams, along with the other 10 teams will punish a team for going more than a quarter of a game without scoring. And yet, Northwestern won. It’s a real shame NU won’t get to play Rutgers again this year.
McIntosh Is a Big Ten Point Guard
I’ve hit McIntosh a couple times on his perimeter defense, but even if that part of the game doesn’t improve, he is still a legit Big Ten point guard. Another game where he shouldered the load offensively for the Wildcats. He was the only Wildcat who was a consistent threat from the floor, he knocked down both of his three pointers, and, especially important given Tre Demps’ struggles, hit 5 of 6 foul shots. Vic Law might have had the highest ranking out of high school, but it’s been apparent from nearly day 1 that McIntosh would have the most impact his freshman year. If he can cut down on turnovers and handle traps better, he’ll certainly be in the conversation for All-Freshman team this year.
JerShon is Back (Kinda)
JerShon is one of my favorite players I’ve watched aat Northwestern, right up there with Mohamed Hachad, Jitim Young, and Patrick Houlihan. His midrange game, silky handles, and occasional lock down defense when he’s healthy is just straight up fun to watch. The operative clause though is “when he’s healthy.” JerShon saw his first action in a long time due to injury and played 20+ minutes, even though that wasn’t Chris Collins’ plan. He’s not at 100% yet, but a 6 point, 7 rebound showing is a real positive sign for the Senior as Big Ten play rolls on. NU needs him, make no mistake about it.
Disappearing Acts by Key Players
Vic Law was sick, so we can excuse his 10-minute, 0 point performance. But there were two other starters who needed to step up and didn’t. Sanjay Lumpkin needs to be assertive on offense. Yes his shot is flat. Yes his handles aren’t really there. But if he is just going to float around and not get in attack mode, defenses can forget abut him and feel free to double in the post. He’s actually a decent scorer this year, he just needs to start acting like it. Alex Olah was even more disappointing. Sure Rutgers made it their number one priority to take the post away, but if you’re one of the team’s leading scorers, you need to shoot it more than 3 times, and you need to shoot it more than 0 times from inside the arc. Northwestern will need more than just two players scoring to win conference games. Northwestern won’t have another game against this bad of an opponent. If they still have eyes at a post-season birth, someone not named Demps, McIntosh, or Olah will need to step up their offensive game in a big way.