Northwestern's Luka Mirkovic is two different players. At home he is a 9.3 points, 7 boards per game beast who has matured as the season has progressed. But on the road he scores 5.4 points, grabs 5.4 boards per game and is the type of player that can't control the low post.
Now, in order to make this a fair comparison I took 9 home games against good competition (Butler, Stanford and the Big Ten) and compared them to 9 road and neutral games against similar teams (Notre Dame, Iowa State, N.C. State and the Big Ten).
Even this week the two sides of Mirkovic have been on display. Against Indiana at Welsh-Ryan Arena he played one of his best games of the season. He scored 14 points and stuffed the box score in 34 minutes of play. Then against Iowa at Carver Hawkeye Arena he played 17 minutes and scored 2 points.
"I love this school and I love this gym, the fans are great," Mirkovic said after the game against the Hoosiers. "I love playing in front of our crowd. There's a lot of energy and it kind of gets me going as well. It's fun. It really is."
The sophomore center needs to learn to be more consistent on the court. Especially on the road where that energy might not be as easy to channel. Interestingly enough, Mirkovic had his best game on the road at a notably hostile environment, at Michigan. In that game as well he really seemed to be feeding off the crowd and making hustle plays.
It's not just Mirkovic's scoring and rebounding that drops when he is on the road. All of his stats take a hit. He dishes out almost 2 fewer assists per game, gets fewer steals and commits more fouls on the road. The only thing he has done better on a per game basis is rejections - and that's mostly based upon 4 blocks against the Wolfpack.
It's obvious Mirkovic loves playing the game of basketball in front of a boisterous crowd. He's one of the first Northwestern players to start waving his hands to exert the crowd and he loves to celebrate after momentum changing plays. There is a passion to the way he plays. But like many young post players, Mirkovic needs to learn to channel that passion and to unleash it at the right time. Because once he does that he's going to be a force in the post.