The Injury Report
Senior Center Aaron Jennings performed well despite the shin splints that have been limiting his practice time. He scored a team-high 16 points on 8 of 11 shooting and grabbed 7 rebounds. Aaron participated in only three practices this past week, including half the practice on Thursday. Coach Bill Carmody commented after the game that Aaron might just have to tough it out and get more used to playing with some pain. Aaron ran down the court somewhat gingerly throughout the Friday's game. Nevertheless, he showed his increased size, outstanding footwork, and improved skill at the center position, as Maryland-Eastern Shore couldn't come up with any answers to stop him.
As expected, sophomore forward Vedran Vukusic was in street clothes at the end of the Northwestern bench. Before the game, Coach Carmody said that all kinds of tests have been run on Vedran's reinjured shoulder. The doctors are getting meeting on Tuesday to discuss the situation and make a recommendation regarding Vedran's future. Carmody conceded that his staff is anticipating that they'll be without him this season and added that "it doesn't look good."
Freshman center Ivan Tolic was suspiciously absent from the Wildcats bench on Friday. Out with torn knee cartilage, Ivan had worn street clothes and sat at the end of the bench for both of Northwestern's exhibition games.
Freshman guard Mohamed Hachad is also battling health problems. Before the game, Coach Carmody told WGN Radio that Mohamed has "tendinitis that's been bothering him," but he didn't say anything beyond that. Mohamed saw action only for the final 1:20 against the Fighting Hawks.
Lastly, junior forward Patrick Towne was suited up but again saw no action. Patrick also has been reportedly recovering from a pre-season injury.
The Kids Can Shoot
It's no secret that Carmody and his staff have been recruiting pure shooters to Evanston. Three of the freshmen wasted little time showing off their range Friday night in their first collegiate game. On just the second possession of the game, freshman starting point guard TJ Parker knocked down a long three beyond the top of the arc on his first field goal attempt as a Wildcat. Freshman forward Jimmy Maley got into the action within three minutes of replacing Jason Burke by connecting on his first collegiate field goal attempt--also a three-pointer. Finally, just over a minute after being inserted into the lineup, freshman guard Evan Seacat drained a three-pointer from the top of the key on his second field goal attempt.
A New Hope?
With sophomore Croatian forward Vedran Vukusic sidelined with the shoulder injury, sophomore Croatian forward Davor Duvancic saw increased playing time. Davor played well, scoring 6 points on 3 of 4 shooting. He replaced Aaron Jennings for the final 11:42 of the first half and looked comfortable and confident. Davor moved the ball well and split a pair of defenders down the middle of the lane for a basket on an impressive back-door cut.
A Potential Drop-off?
Senior utility-man Jason Burke started at forward in place of the injured Vedran Vukusic, but scored only 2 points. While he blocked two shots and played well on defense, Jason does not seem to have the natural shooting and passing abilities of Vukusic. One of Jason's real assets last season was being able to play any position on the floor. Starting at forward will likely limit Jason's effectiveness at substituting at the guard positions to give breathers to Parker and Young.
"Mr. Outside" Moving Inside Over the past two seasons, Winston Blake has established himself as one of the Big Ten's best three-point shooters. Thus far this season, Winston has been establishing himself inside the arc. He struggled from behind the arc in both exhibition games and again Friday night, shooting only 1 of 5 on three-point field goal attempts. Still, Winston managed to score 7 points and grab a team-high 8 rebounds.
Poise in the Back Court
Both Jitim Young and TJ Parker appear poised to effectively lead the 'Cats motion offense. The duo that combined for 48 points in the final exhibition game combined for 15 points against the Fighting Hawks. They got sloppy at times and committed too many turnovers, but they never seemed to lose control of the game. TJ Parker pushes the ball up the court remarkably quickly and is well in control of the motion offense, often creating opportunities with no-look passes. Jitim Young, one of the Wildcat standouts from the past two season, continues to improve his game. He even seems to have worked his way out of his free-throw shooting woes. Jitim was 4 for 4 from the line Friday.
The recent promotional efforts of the Northwestern Althletic Deparment, including the re-naming of the student section, paid modest dividends Friday night. Compared to early out-of-conference games of recent seasons past, there was a reasonably active student contingent dressed in purple under both baskets. Not to make mountains out of mole-hills... Everything is relative.
The Wildcats have now won 12 consecutive non-conference home games. The streak, ironically, began with Northwestern's victory over Maryland-Eastern Shore in 2000.
The Wildcats face their next challenge Monday night as they host the Wildcats of New Hamphire at 7pm at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Go Cats - Beat 'em All!
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