Men’s Basketball: Wins come, but offense still uneven

Adam Fusfeld

Northwestern has started the year undefeated thanks to its renewed commitment on the defensive end. Coach Bill Carmody has emphasized defensive drills in practice. After each win, the team assessed its defensive performance before even mentioning its renowned Princeton offense.

Though the Wildcats (2-0) have shot at a blistering 51 percent rate this season, the offense is still not where it needs to be.

“We’re probably at about 70 (percent),” senior guard Craig Moore said. “We’ve got so much to work on. I mean it’s great when we can win games and not play our best. I shot one for seven. We had a lot of miscues. We were turning the ball over in the first half, but we kept stretching the lead. And that’s nice when you have the talent, with the big men, to win games when it’s not your best night.”

Those big men are also changing the complexion of the Princeton offense. When the Cats play freshman center Kyle Rowley, at center the team looks to him in the post more, and tries to get him in position to score.

In two games, Rowley has shown he possesses the footwork and the touch to score around the basket. The seven-foot freshman is averaging only six points per game, but his impact on the offense goes beyond the box score.

“He’s such a big target there,” Carmody said. “With him in there, we’re probably going to throw it down there a lot more. Instead of going around in circles a little bit more, we’re going to try and go north-south a little bit more.”

While the young big men continue to learn the offense, the offense is trying to learn how to play with the big men. Freshman forward John Shurna, who broke out Wednesday night with 17 points and nine rebounds, has already begun to mesh well with fellow starting forward Kevin Coble.

“He was incredible,” Coble said of Shurna. “It’s just such a great weapon to have and it creates matchup problems having the two of us at forward.”

After the win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Carmody said he planned to post up each of his starting forwards more to take advantage of their craftiness in the paint.

Shooting from downtown has been another story, though. While NU was shooting 50 percent from behind the arc through their first game and early into the second, by the end of the first half the team began to struggle from outside. The Cats were one for their last 13 from 3-point range to close Wednesday’s game.

“Some of them weren’t coming out of the offense as much,” said Carmody of the 3-point attempts. “I still think Craig (Moore) is looking to help others, and I think the one’s that he takes its sort of like, ‘Oh, OK I’ll take it.’ But I think he’s got to be a little more aggressive.”

Nevertheless, considering how early it is in the season, and how many new faces are being integrated into the offense, the team is pleased with its progression on that end. In addition to their gaudy shooting percentages, the Cats have taken 47 free throws and have tallied 35 assists in their two games.

When the team travels to Brown for Saturday’s contest, NU will continue to work on its offensive consistency. As the schedule becomes tougher, the team needs to believe its offense can be there throughout the entire game despite all the newcomers involved.

“The freshmen are going to come along as they come along offensively,” Carmody said. “It won’t be as smooth or as fluid as some other years, but eventually it will. And I’m hoping in another six weeks or so the offensive is looking sharp or tight. And not just for bits and pieces of it, but for 40 minutes.”

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