Three Thoughts - Northwestern vs. Robert Morris


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Northwestern and Robert Morris played a fun game on Thursday night. The game was played at a pretty free pace and the final score, 91-71, wasn't indicative of much, but there might've been some things to learn. Here are a few things that struck me while shooting photos on the baseline.

1. Last time I checked rebounding was part of defense. - Northwestern played man defense for the entirety of Thursday night's contest. The Wildcats also allowed Robert Morris to grab 19 offensive rebounds compared to 31 defensive rebounds for the Wildcats. That's exactly a 38 percent offensive rebound rate. Opponent's offensive rebound rate last season? 33.6 percent. This wasn't an improvement. Bill Carmody had this to say about it afterwards: 
"People say our defense was bad last year because the other teams scored a lot of points, but I looked at the tapes from last year and looked at them over and over and I think that first shot they miss a lot. But once that first ball goes up on the glass or on the rim then we have problems. That's part of defense. So we've been trying to stress that a little bit in practice. Because I saw that again tonight."

2. The tempo was faster, and that's was okay. - Northwestern played very under control. The Wildcats committed four turnovers all game even though they were playing at a faster tempo than last season and mixing and matching lineups. This was a 71 possession game. That's a lot faster than the Wildcats played last season, but that's alright. This team finally has the talent to play at that pace against overmatched teams, and it should play that way. Most of the non-conference season should be played at this pace to take advantage of Northwestern's athleticism in the open court. John Shurna, who looks much more comfortable handling the basketball, Drew Crawford, Michael Thompson and JerShon Cobb can all make plays.

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3. Northwestern will go nine deep and the big question is at backup point guard. - There is a three-horse race going on for backup point guard. It's between Cobb, who said afterwards he still feels more like a two-guard that's learning to play the point from Thompson, Alex Marcotullio, who has the highest dribble of any guard I've ever seen, and Jeff Ryan. While Cobb might grow into that role during the season, Marcotullio seems like more of a specialist and it seems like Ryan will eventually be the guy here. The redshirt senior might not shoot a lot, but he's a good veteran presence that calms the team down and makes good decisions. He went 0-2 with two rebounds, two fouls, an assist and a steal during his 10 minutes on the court, but those were good stretches for the Wildcats.

I'll leave you with this, Carmody still has a lot of work to do before next Friday. Two other notes: Northwestern committed 15 personal fouls on 73 attempts. Its 26 percent FTA/FGA was much better than last season's dismal 41.7 percent that came from playing zone. Also, the Wildcats didn't commit a turnover in the first half and had 20 assists on 36 baskets.

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