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Breaking It Down: Northwestern Gets A Much Needed Win At Penn State

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Phew. That one was much needed for the Northwestern Wildcats. Sure, they took down the lowly Penn State Nittany Lions, but it wasn’t just the result, it’s how they won it.

They moved the ball well and played aggressive defense both in the man and zone. Yes, it came down to making shots, but it was the little things to get them there that we haven’t seen much this season.

POSITIVES:

- I loved how Jared Swopshire worked on the block. He’s been shooting way too many threes this year. Use your quickness/strength to get to the rim, Swopshire.

- Dave Sobolewski finally got aggressive. Bill Carmody‘s been ragging on his point guard to shoot the ball and he apparently got the message. Sobo nearly beat the Butler Bulldogs in a game where they were basically outplayed in every other facet.

- Alex Olah still needs to go up stronger and “rip through” double teams, but he’s one tough kid. He was hit in the face multiple times and still went up to grab rebounds. Obviously, he’s a work in progress, but this is the best center Northwestern has had during the Carmody era.

- Reggie Hearn does a little bit of everything. You can tell the team is so much more comfortable when he is on the floor. As he continues to recover from the ankle injury, I think you’ll see him start to take back the offensive mantle.

NEGATIVES (Not many in this one):

Alex Marcotullio just can’t play right now. He couldn’t hit a thing all night and he looked slow on defense. I’ve got to think that his back is acting up again. Just rest him for a week or so now that Hearn is back in the rotation.

- What’s up with Nikola Cerina? He gets play during the Michigan Wolverines and the Minnesota Golden Gophers games but nothing here? I thought this would be a good “lesser” matchup for him to get comfortable in, but I was wrong. Don’t expect much from him this year. It really doesn’t make sense, either. He’s got to be better than Mike Turner, who looks completely lost at times.

- Tre Demps can’t let a couple of early bad shots get him down. It looked like that happened last night and he really didn’t do anything until garbage time. He’ll be needed as scoring punch off the bench in future games.

GOING FORWARD:

The Iowa Hawkeyes come to Welsh-Ryan Arena on Sunday, mired in a three-game conference losing streak. They desperately need a win and it won’t be an easy one for Northwestern to grab. Iowa wants to run and has some outstanding young talent led by Aaron White. Leading scorer Roy Devyn Marble is expected to be back in the starting lineup after he missed the Michigan State Spartans game with an ankle injury.

The Hawkeyes, though, are vulnerable to turning the ball open and don’t move well laterally on defense. Expect the ‘Cats to extend the 1-3-1 and force Iowa to hit some threes.

Meanwhile, grind it down offensively. Don’t get tricked into running because “the home crowd is behind you”. That would play right into their hands.

If Northwestern can win this one and even their conference record at 2-2, hopes will rise among the legions of “purple cats”.

Like my article? Hate it? Let me know on Twitter (@tmichaelcronin). I look forward to your thoughts.