This week, Northwestern looked good, played inspired basketball, and showed why it will be one of the toughest teams in the Big Ten. However, this week Northwestern also looked terrible, played passive, committed too many turnovers, and displayed some bad defensive techniques and positioning, which caused them to be dominated in the paint.
The Wildcats finished the week 1-1 with a win at Baylor (74-70) on the road, and then a loss at home to Butler (65-74). While watching Two-Face in "The Dark Knight," something just hit home. By beating Baylor, Northwestern looks great and gives you that hope of finally reaching the NCAA tournament. Then playing Butler on a dark night at Welsh Ryan Arena this past Saturday, the Wildcats looked bad, as if they will fall short of the NCAA tournament once again.
The question of consistency keeps reoccurring with this team. Drew Crawford played well against Baylor, making tough baskets when the Wildcats needed points, and sealed the game with two free throws which staved off the Bears' tenacious comeback. Yet, Crawford was held to only six points and six rebounds against Butler. Jared Swopshire in the seven wins this season, has averaged 12 points and over 6.5 rebounds a game. In the three losses, Swopshire averaged 2.1 points and 5.1 rebounds.
Reggie Hearn has been the most consistent player all season and his will to compete stands out tremendously. Dave Sobolewski runs the team nicely and has been a feisty competitor. The job he did defensively on Pierre Jackson and Rotnei Clarke really impressed me. Sobolewski also showed his ability to score, netting a season high 21 points against Butler.
But even Sobolewski had uncharacteristic errors, turning the ball over five times and recording only three assists against the Bulldogs, which is something Wildcat fans aren't use to seeing from the point guard. Tre Demps, who has been trying to find his identity in Bill Carmody's system, received playing time on the court, and really gave Northwestern instant offense Saturday, scoring 15 points off the bench.
The remedy I feel is needed for Northwestern to play more consistently is to step on the court ready to win, meaning it must have a passion and desire to out-work opponents. If NU is playing a team physical like Butler was, then match its physicality. If a team loves to pressure as Baylor does, accept the challenge, hold on to your guts, and break the pressure without turnovers.
Focus is another attribute needed to be consistent. The Wildcats are shooting 42 percent from the field and 68 percent from the free-throw line. When you get easy layups, put the ball in the basket. Concentrate and use the glass to finish or dunk. With all the shooters that Northwestern has, their free-throw percentage should be much higher.
Finally, to be a consistent team, one must make those hustle plays, battling in the trenches, and getting the majority of those 50-50 loose balls or rebounds. Northwestern, in its three home losses, has been out-rebounded 110-73; and those teams have also gotten more 11 steals. Effort has to improve if this is going to be a special season.
I would rather compare Northwestern to "The Avengers," not Two-Face.
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