Sunday, November 24, 2013

OOO-EEE-POO-EEE? Ewww is Right

NU 63 - IUPUI 61 (59 possessions)

On Friday night, Northwestern won a game it should have lost, and it did so in a way that is likely unfamiliar to most NU fans: excellent offensive rebounding. If you were to consider only the shooting numbers, then NU absolutely lost the game. To wit:

Shooting
NU
IUPUI
TS%
49.45%
56.85%
eFG%
45.69%
54.26%
3P%
31.25%
37.50%
2P%
45.24%
53.85%
FT%
83.33%
71.43%
FTA/FGA
20.69
29.79
P/FGA
1.09
1.30

IUPUI significantly outshot NU everywhere but the foul line. For much of the game, the ‘Cats man-to-man defense seemed impotent against the Jaguars’ attack. Meanwhile, NU’s three most-frequent shooters shot very poorly: Drew Crawford, 40 eFG% on 17.24% of NU’s shots; JerShon Cobb, 30.77% on 22.41%, and Dave Sobolewski, 22.73% on 18.97 %. As a result, IUPUI put up over 0.2 more points per FGA than NU. In a 59-possession game, assuming both teams attempted the same number of FGs, IUPUI should have outscored NU by over 12 points. Here is the primary reason the Jaguars did not:

NU
IUPUI
OReb%
33.33%
19.23%

Thanks in large part to 12 offensive rebounds, the ‘Cats got off 11 more FGAs than the Jaguars and were able to compensate for their poor overall shooting. Chris Collins said after the game that NU’s margin for error is slim, and it surely was in this game. NU made 24 FGs and 10 FTs. IUPUI made 24 FGs and 10 FTs. The difference? NU made 5 3Pts to IUPUI’s 3. There’s your 2-point game differential.

Aside from the solid rebounding, there were two other positives. First, the ‘Cats didn’t quit despite shooting poorly and facing their largest deficit at 49-38 with 10 minutes left in the game. Second, at that 10-minute mark Patrick Baldwin suggested going to a 2-3 zone. NU got two quick steals, and the tenor of the game changed. The ‘Cats outscored the Jaguars 25-12 in the final quarter of the game and escaped on Cobb 2PT shot with two seconds left in the game.

So, Northwestern beat a team that was #298 in the game day KenPom rankings by two points, at home. As others noted on Twitter, this would have been NU’s worst loss in eight years. Despite the three positives I noted, this never ever should have been a close game. There is far too much talent on this team to be in a dogfight at home with a Summit League cellar dwellar.


Tomorrow night NU hosts Gardner Webb, another KenPom bottom feeder (ranked 267). It’s another game that the ‘Cats should win easily. Nevertheless, I wonder if they will. The one thing I feel truly comfortable saying about this team, so far, is that I have no idea who they are. They have no consistent identity. I’ll have more on that tomorrow before the game.

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