To be honest, I'm not quite sure what you can take away from Northwestern's 93-81 victory at Welsh-Ryan Arena tonight over Indiana. Oh sure, the Wildcats got a victory and the Hoosiers now have even more questions to answer, but other than that it's tough to take away too much. This was Northwestern taking advantage of a young team that made young mistakes. Here were my three biggest takeaways.
1. Luka Mirkovic was finally aggressive - Yes, Indiana's starting lineup didn't have a player over 6'8. In fact the Hoosiers don't have anyone on their roster that's over 6'9, but Mirkovic dominated in the paint for most of the game. He posted up strong and finished when he needed to. He took only one three pointer, which was his only bad shot of the game. He went 7-11 from the field, 6-9 from the free throw line and grabbed 12 rebounds. Of course there might be three other teams in the Big Ten where this will be possible again (Michigan, Iowa and Penn State), but it was a good sign.
2. John Shurna was moving better - Shurna went 6-9 from the field, including 4-5 from three-point range. He consistently knocked down open jump shots on scramble plays. No other team in the Big Ten is going to give up those shots that often, but it was nice to know that the pre-injury Shurna is still lurking. The 24 points look nice, but the five assists are great too. Two blocks are encouraging as well, but 0 rebounds in 33 minutes? That's not good. That said, Mike Capocci came in for a few of those minutes and grabbed three boards and scored eight points. His 14 minutes were full of productive things. I don't know of a single reason why he shouldn't consistently get 12-16 minutes a night for this team.
3. The role players looked comfortable - Capocci's play underscores a larger fact in that most of Northwestern's role players played exceptionally well tonight. JerShon Cobb was 4-9 from the field and 3-4 from three-point range while scoring 11 points. Alex Marcotullio picked Drew Crawford up in the first half and finished with six points and four assists in 20 minutes. Even Davide Curletti came in and got a rebound and blocked two shots in eight minutes. To win in the Big Ten you need those role players to step up on a consistent basis. It's the problem Michigan State is dealing with right now and why Purdue has been so good. For Northwestern those guys are Cobb, Capocci, Marcotullio and Curletti. If guys five through eight play well the Wildcats will be much tougher to beat.
All that said, we'll see if the lessons carry over to Wednesday when the Wildcats face an important game at Iowa.