View from the Stands: NU - Colorado

Our View from the Stands series continues with this report from the Court by a newcomer to Purple Reign...

Going into Friday's game, both NU and Colorado had questions that needed to be answered.
The Buffaloes had four starters back from a team that barely  lost to Michigan State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Junior center David Harrison is a 7-footer who is one of 30 players named to the Naismith College Player of the Year national watch list. Michel Morandais, a 6-5 junior forward led the team in points scored with 16.9 a game last year.  And the Buffaloes needed to be more consistent on the road, they were only 6-11 in non-conference road games the last
three years.

On the Purple Side, NU would be playing without graduates Aaron Jennings at center and Winston Blake and Jason Burke at forwards. The Cats would have two "new" players in the frontcourt - 6-8 forward Vedran Vukusic [after an injury redshirt year] and freshman center Vince Scott. There is also 6-8 C/F Davor Duvancic who came on later in the season, playing almost 11 minutes a game at forward but the changes up front would lead to speculation that Interior defense will be a major concern this year for the Cats.

The other concern is lack of depth.  Until Ivan Tolic recovers from injury, NU has only 7 players that will play the majority of the minutes this year.  TJ Parker injured his ankle in the last exhibition game missing most of the game.  The Cats can ill afford to lose anyone this year

On to the Game
NU started the game out like gangbusters.  They were more aggressive than the Buffaloes and much quicker.  Two backdoor scores by TJ Parker in the first 5 minutes of the game helped lead the Cats to a 14-6 lead at the 12 minute mark.  The NU defense took Colorado out of it's offense.

But Four NU turnovers later and the score was tied at 18-18 with 5:51 left in the half.  Another backdoor score by TJ and a basket and three-pointer by Jitim and soon the Cats were ahead 30-23 with 2:15 left.  Vince Scott picked up his 3rd foul with 1:04 left in the half and NU Coach Bill Carmody stunned the crowd by bringing in Ivan Tolic.

Tolic had a beautiful assist on another TJ backdoor play.  He looks skilled but seemed to have trouble running the court and didn't see any further action.

At the half TJ Parker led the Cats with 11 points, Mohamed Hachad had 5 boards. Unfortunately, Mohamed also had 4 turnovers as the Wildcats showed they need more work running the offense.  Hachad seems to have only one speed and that sometimes is too quick for him.  He seems to try to do too much rather than take what the defense allows.
So the Cats were ahead 32-27.  They were shooting 52% on their field goals compared to the Buffaloes who shot just 41%.  Colorado was only in the game because they rebounded their missed shot too often.  If the Wildcats  would cut down on their turnovers they would be ahead by double digits.  For the Buffs, David Harrison showed nothing in the first half.  Michel Morandais led the team with 13 but he forced many shots.
Harrison picked up two quick fouls in the first minute of the second half giving him three for the game.  Three Colorado three-pointers later and the Buffs rook a 36-38 lead.  Morandais scored 5 points in the first 4 and one-half minutes of the half as the lead see-sawed back and forth. Morandais picked up two quick fouls and with 13:02 left both Harrison and Morandais had four fouls apiece.  The Cats led 45 to 41 at that point.  In the next 4 and one-half minutes Colorado scored 7 points with both their big guys out of the game.  They led 48 to 45 at that point.

At the 8 minute mark the Cats went cold, not scoring again until the 3:35 mark when a free throw made it 57 to 48 Buffalo lead.  NU wasn't able to cut into that margin and wound up losing 67 to 56.

Things to Work on
After shooting over 50% in the first half, the Wildcats wound up the game only shooting 36.5%.  Jitim wasn't able to make many shots under the basket. Mohamed and TJ missed on most of their outside shots in the second half.
The offense looked crisp when Davor Duvancic was in the game. Unfortunately, he picked up his fourth foul with 10:39 left in the second half and only returned for a brief period before he had picked up his fifth.
The Frosh
When Vince Scott was in the game, the offense slowed down noticeably.  It will take him a while to learn where he has to go after he passes and sets a pick or two.  The Croatians [VV & DD] move instinctively within the offense.  Vince should get better as the season progresses.
Bottom line, the Cats gave all they had tonight.  They played with heart and determination.  Many of their outside shots were taken outside of the offensive scheme and most of those missed.  They had two scoring droughts that they couldn't overcome.  In the first half, they had too many turnovers.  They were by far the quicker team and out hustled Colorado.  But a poor shooting second half killed them.

I Look for them to improve each game and I think you will be surprised by how they do this year..

NU Alum Michael Jackson sits under the basket at most home games
Watch for his analysis this year on Purple Reign

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