Five Thoughts: Northwestern-Brown

Michael Hlebasko offers five thoughts following Northwestern-Brown.

Kale Abrahamson and Nate Taphorn are essentially redundant. They play almost the exact same way, offering the same things to the team and taking the same things off the table. They can't play together on either end of the floor for this reason, and so they are probably competing for the same minutes every night. Kale's performance against Brown, along with his play and Taphorn's play in recent games, suggests that Abrahamson will win the majority of those minutes going forward. Nate Taphorn, who was the subject of some early season optimism, played just one minute against Brown, in which he was burned on a backdoor cut and threw a pass away despite facing little pressure. With possible roster shakeups looming, it is tough not to wonder about their future. That sobering reality adds another dimension to their competition as the Wildcats head into conference play.

— Dave Sobolewski managed seven assists and six rebounds tonight despite shooting 2-11 from the field and committing 5 turnovers. His decision making seemed slow on the fast break and was often suspect in the half court. His shooting woes are less of an issue than his struggles in initiating the offense, but the 7 assists are a good sign. It's time to accept that Sobolewski likely isn't going to be reliable shooting the basketball from anywhere on the floor this year, but if he can provide a decent number of assists and cut down on his turnovers, he can still make a positive impact for Northwestern.

— I hope that either Chier Ajou or Aaron Liberman are capable of playing at some point during the Big Ten slate, because Nikola Cerina looked lost and Sanjay Lumpkin and Alex Olah can only commit 10 fouls between them before being disqualified from games. The Wildcats have been able to succeed going small against teams like Brown and Mississippi Valley State, but with the likes of Adreian Payne, Noah Vonleh, and Mitch McGary looming, the interior defense is going to be facing serious challenges. Cerina makes the Wildcats effectively play 4-on-5 when they have the ball, and a team that is already challenged for scoring can't afford that.

— The Wildcats were outrebounded 49-42 for the game. Alex Olah had just 5 rebounds, 3 of which were on the defensive end. Sanjay Lumpkin, who has had a few double-doubles this season, had just 4 rebounds. The Wildcats could very well lose games on the going forward if the numbers don't pick up. For a nearly 7-foot center to only get 3 defensive boards in about 28 minutes of action is pretty awful, and the Wildcats don't seem to have any superior rebounders waiting in the wings. Northwestern will almost certainly lose at least one conference game it could have won this season because of its rebounding troubles.

— Excepting Drew Crawford's 8-17 night from the floor, the Wildcats shot just 13-42, or 31%, from the field. This is a full 10% worse than what Brown was allowing opponents to shoot from the floor heading into the game, and their schedule hasn't been full of quality teams. We've seen enough now to know that the offense isn't very good. Coach Collins is going to have to try to throw some new wrinkles in to score more points in Big Ten play. I think they might be able to succeed running pick and rolls with Jershon Cobb and Drew Crawford to get those guys more involved, and as Tre Demps matures he may be able to contribute as a drive and kick player. The schedule is about to get more difficult, and the Wildcats' effort will have to rise to the occasion.


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