Five Thoughts: Northwestern-Western Michigan

Five Thoughts: Northwestern-Western Michigan

Postgame reaction the day after Northwestern's win against Western Michigan.

-- I'm a fan of the move to bench Dave Sobolewski, though James Montgomery III seems like an odd choice of replacement. Montgomery played nine solid defensive minutes – earning Chris Collins' praise – but hardly gives this team its best chance of winning. Sobolewski, though, has been atrocious save for the UIC road game. Aside from that solid performance, he's shooting a miserable 24 percent and attempted multiple contested threes in the win over Western Michigan. I'd start Tre Demps to give this offense a pulse, or use Kale Abrahamson as a physical "spark." Right now, I'd be stunned if Bryant McIntosh weren't named the immediate starter in his freshman year.

-- I'm way less upbeat about the decision, however short-term, to bench sophomore center Alex Olah. The key for Olah is confidence; when he has it, the Wildcats are in significantly better shape. His post moves looked sharp against talented big man Shayne Whittington even after the benching. Still, it made little sense to bench an inconsistent center. Nikola Cerina has much lower upside in every single game. While this seemed like more of a "statement" from Collins in terms of effort – given how bad the North Carolina State game was – it shouldn't have applied to his young center.

-- The Northwestern offense fell into a fairly good pace – especially near the end of the first half. If the three-pointers dropped, the outcome would have been even more lopsided. Jershon Cobb distributed the ball well, Sanjay Lumpkin had his two- or three-drive quota and the Wildcats managed to attack the post. Minus some occasional passive play (always a problem here), the 51 points are unreflective of their better effort. On that note, Drew Crawford tends to disappear at times, still, which needs to stop happening if Northwestern hopes to compete in Big Ten play.

-- Don't discount the defensive performance as "lucky." Northwestern returned to its fundamentals and exposed a weaker opponent. After challenging itself in Las Vegas and at Raleigh, NU made visible improvements and maintained tight defense for, really, all 40 minutes. The Wildcats avoided too much foul trouble, for once, and allowed fewer open post looks than usual. Compared to Sobolewski, Montgomery did provide Northwestern with quite the defensive boost. And any lineup using Lumpkin and Cobb works well – barring a ridiculous matchup for Lumpkin. For NU, it was a promising sign heading into finals week.

-- Things I liked: Again, the Dave Sobolewski benching was more than warranted. I, like Collins, enjoyed Alex Olah's aggression and dunk attempt. (Key word attempt.) Tre Demps looks like a more mature basketball player; that's incredibly high praise coming from me. Things I don't like: Messing with Olah's confidence. They always need him in some role. Sobolewski's shooting percentage and tendency to slump is borderline unbelievable. Also, NU could still manage a better effort in terms of free throw shooting. Its adjustment process has taken some time.

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