Northwestern wins, at least according to the score

Michael Thompson jumps up in the air to pass.

Northwestern beat Texas-Pan American on Wednesday, but it wasn't the most glamorous of victories. The 77-71 game was in doubt much of the way and without the heroics of Michael Thompson the Wildcats could've headed back to Evanston with a bad loss on their record.

Thanksfully, Thompson shows up for every game and the Wildcats were able to avoid disaster. Yes, the final box score says that John Shurna scored 20 points and Drew Crawford 22, but it took them a long time to get going. Crawford had 13 points at the break, but Shurna wasn't himself in the first 20 minutes. It really seems like it takes him a while to get into the flow of the game.
Meanwhile, UTPA hung around and hung around. The Wildcats got up by 11 thanks to a Thompson basket with 8:27 remaining, but the Broncs - on their home court - clawed their way back into the game.
Thus it took Thompson's lay up with one second remaining on the shot clock to extend Northwestern's lead to five with 27 seconds remaining to avert disaster.

Then again, maybe a loss would've done Northwestern some good. For this game certainly felt like one. The Wildcats slogged through it though. Still there are a bunch of things that still need to be fixed.

For instance here are the things that bugged me tonight:
  • The 1-3-1 was back with a vengeance on Wednesday, mostly because it was the only way Northwestern could get consistent stops on defense against UTPA. This has to change. The match-up zone or even man-to-man should work against a team like the Broncs. They didn't.
  • The bigs are still soft. Take Luka Mirkovic away from Welsh-Ryan Arena and he becomes a 6'11 scarecrow. UTPA started no one that should be able to guard Mirkovic in the post. He still finished 2-4 with 7 points. Of course it's not like Davide Curletti, 2 points and 3 fouls, really distinguished himself either. There are some really good big men in the Big Ten, Northwestern's going to have to figure out some way to deal with them.
  • JerShon Cobb isn't quite right yet. I'll cut him some slack since he's coming back from injury, but he also made some "freshman mistakes" with turnovers during the game. Still, as his hip bothers him less and less he'll have more freedom to let his athleticism do the work.
  • Mike Capocci does absolutely nothing for me as a basketball player. I'm not really sure what Bill Carmody wants him to do on the court, but he doesn't seem to be doing it. I don't understand why Capocci doesn't play with more urgency when he's on the court.
And just for balance, a couple good bullet points:
  • Michael Thompson - can't say enough about the guy. He's a great floor leader. I have no idea who will be the player that actually comes to compete every game and forces his teammates to rise to his level next season. There are some other elite points guards whose coaches wish they played like Thompson.
  • While he did get beat pretty badly twice at the top of the zone, Alex Marcotullio played a pretty strong game. He played a lot of minutes and picked his spots on offense. He should be a good complementary player to the "Big 3" during his sophomore season.

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