Coming off a decisive 65 point victory over Chicago State on Monday, the Northwestern Wildcats continued their pattern of dominance tonight. The unfortunate recipient of tonight’s beat down was an upstart Valparaiso team. Ultimately, the final score ended up rather lopsided with Northwestern winning 84-50.
The Crusaders bolstered a solid 8-2 record coming into the evening with their only losses coming to Purdue and Ball State. With tonight’s loss, Valparaiso, who started the season 8-0, has dropped their last three contests.
As for the Wildcats, they have slammed their last two opponents after losing to Purdue on December 3rd. They will now look to make it three straight wins with a game at DePaul on Saturday.
Let’s recount this evening’s only Big Ten game.
Game of the Night
For how close this game was by KenPom standards, it really did not seem as close on the floor. Coming in, Valparaiso was ranked 87th in KenPom, a very nice ranking for a Missouri Valley team. While Northwestern’s 58 ranking was respectable too, it made the game seem close on the outset.
The Wildcats thoroughly controlled the game early by establishing the pace. By doing this, they already had an advantage that the Crusaders could not match. Throughout the first half, Northwestern commanded both ends of the floor. They were led by Vic Law, who scored 15 first half points on four of seven shooting. By half’s end, the Wildcats held a 17 point advantage over their opponent.
Efficient shooting was a key factor in cementing a hefty lead. In the first 20 minutes, Northwestern shot 45 percent from the field while making half of their three point attempts. Compare that to Valparaiso’s 42 percent clip from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc. Smart shots and crisp offensive execution is what led to this effectiveness from the field.
Northwestern only continued to build and sustain their lead as the second half began. While the offense was a significant proponent in the team’s success, it was the defense that really stunted the Crusaders. Swarming rotations and tight coverage made Valparaiso quite uncomfortable and made it difficult to get good looks offensively.
Due to this stifling defensive effort, Northwestern was able to cause 21 turnovers, an amount that great is a recipe for failure for any team. It truly was the defense that paced the offense on the other end. The Wildcats were able to score in transition and get easy buckets because they turned their opponents over so consistently.
It is clear that a defensive switch has been flipped for Northwestern. They struggled early in the season defensively. However, over their last two games they have only allowed a meager 40.5 points per game to opponents.
As the final buzzer rang out, the Wildcats held a 34 point lead. Vic Law led the game in scoring with 18 points while Scottie Lindsey chipped in 13 points as well. Northwestern, as a team, shot 46 percent from the field and a scorching 55 percent from downtown. Regardless of conference or opponent, when a team shoots that well, it is almost impossible to beat them.
The Wildcats now move to 7-4 as they move on and prepare for their date with the Blue Demons. After that, they only have three non-conference games left before welcoming Nebraska on January 2nd. It certainly has to be encouraging for Northwestern fans to see their team hit a stride after struggling early on. One can only help they can continue to play at this high of level as Big Ten play looms.