Northwestern wins with defense

INDIANAPOLIS - MARCH 12: Guard Michael Thompson #22 of the Northwestern Wildcats talks with teammate Davide Curletti #30 during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 12, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

With all due respect to Teddy Greenstein, I think he missed the story of last night's Northwestern game. Of course, I didn't even watch the game, but when the Wildcats hold an opponent to less than a point per possession it seems like no matter how many dunks Northwestern has that's the story.

Creighton came into Welsh-Ryan Arena having scored less than a point per possession in just one game this season. They left with that number being two as the Wildcats held them to 52 points in 62 possessions, a wonderful 0.84 points per possession that would make anyone absolutely thrilled.
The Wildcats are 4-0 for the first time in 17 years because they buckled down and finally stopped a good team when it mattered.

Playing a mix of the 1-3-1 and the match up zone defense the Wildcats played tough on the defensive end in the second half. Northwestern allowed 20 points in the second half. 

The Wildcats held Creighton to an effective field goal percentage of 41.2 percent, forced 12 turnovers (19.4 percent TO%), only allowed eight offensive rebounds on 32 misses (25 percent OR%), and let the Blue Jays attempt 15 free throws against 51 shot attempts (29.4 percent free throw rate). Those are all solid defensive efforts.
The second half field goal defense was especially strong, with the Wildcats allowing Creighton to shoot just 28 percent from the field as Northwestern outscored them by five over the final 20 minutes. One of the big things in that half was the defensive play by Luka Mirkovic.
"In the second half, I thought we defended very well but we turned the ball over a lot," Bill Carmody said afterwards. "I told Luka at halftime that it is very hard to play so bad in the first half, as he did, and then play well in the second half but he did it. He came through in a nice way. He took away their center position in terms of scoring."
Thus, even though Drew Crawford only scored 7 points and John Shurna and Michael Thompson were the only players in double-figures, the Wildcats managed to win the game pretty comfortably against a team some people think could be in the NCAA Tournament this season.
Now a very different Georgia Tech team comes to Welsh-Ryan Arena. I know the Yellow Jackets lost to Kennesaw State, but since then they've really righted the ship - and are ranked higher than Creighton by Ken Pomeroy. A victory over UTEP in the Legends Classic and a close loss to Syracuse shows that this team isn't to be counted out. How do they do it? Good defense. In their victory over the Miners they held UTEP to 61 points in 73 possessions. Could it be a battle of the defenses on Tuesday?
We'll see how it goes, but Sunday was definitely a step in the right direction.
Apparently someone was up on this whole defense thing - check out what Sippin' On Purple published right before this went live.

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