Princeton no longer only way (Gameday)

Wade Askew

Northwestern may have lost Thursday night, but it went out firing.

Despite a lineup that featured five guards for the majority of the second half – Jeff Ryan, a natural swingman, spent most of the second half at center – NU scored more points in the paint (24) than did their counterpart and its 7-foot pivot man, Robin Lopez.

That remarkable statistic speaks to the equally startling tendency of NU players to slash into the lane, drawing fouls and hitting layups.

Last year, the NU offense was about as fun to watch as the Home and Garden Network – most plays, so it seemed, would entail 14 passes before a desperate 3-point attempt as the shot clock ran out. The Princeton Offense was run with little variation or creativity, and what resulted were low-scoring chess matches.

While 60 points isn’t exactly lighting it up, it was the way NU earned those 60 points that is so encouraging. Coach Bill Carmody gave freshman sensation Michael “Juice” Thompson and his teammates a considerably longer leash, encouraging a looser style of play and, stunningly, athleticism.

“We have more of an up-tempo style of play now, so we pretty much are going to take the opening that we have as well as using our Princeton Offense,” Thompson said. “We’re looking to get our fast breaks up more and get the open basket.”

In fact, the beauty of Thursday night’s game plan may have been its lack of game plan.

Junior Sterling Williams said attacking the hoop wasn’t necessarily the strategy going into the game. Instead, he submitted one of the most encouraging explanations NU basketball fans have heard in years.

“We were just playing a little bit,” Williams said. “We took what was there, and we hit some layups. We don’t want to be a one-dimensional team. We don’t want to just shoot 3’s all the time because we’re small. … (Attacking) wasn’t necessarily the game plan, but that’s what was available so we tried to take advantage of that.”

There it is: NU just played some basketball. And with a guy like Juice running the show, that just might be pretty fun to watch.

Deputy sports editor Wade Askew is a Medill sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected]