By Preston R. Michelson
Indianapolis — Three days after being throttled by Georgia Tech in the first ten minutes of the game, Northwestern (5-3) played an even game with #23 Butler (7-1), but fell short by a score of 65-56.
“Today was a good step in the right direction,” said head coach Chris Collins. “We had not been playing well and though we were disappointed with the end result, this is the best we’ve played in a while. ”
With 44 seconds left in the first half, Butler’s sophomore forward Andrew Chrabascz knocked down a jumper, and Northwestern trailed for the rest of the matchup.
Northwestern loosened Butler’s lead to two points late in the second but the ranked Bulldogs proved to be too strong of an opponent.
The Wildcats were outplayed by Butler down low — the Bulldogs had 38 points in the paint compared to the Wildcats’ 20. To compensate, the ‘Cats took 18 shots from downtown and converted six.
The biggest discrepancy, however, was at the charity stripe. Northwestern only took seven shots from the free throw line, while Butler took 28.
“That’s hard to overcome in a couple-of-possession game,” Collins said. “You’re not going to win those games.”
Despite being benched in favor of senior point guard Dave Sobolewski, freshman point guard Bryant McIntosh led the team in scoring with twelve points. Sobolewski did not record a shot.
For Butler, junior guard Kellen Dunham was the leading scorer, notching 17 points on nine shot attempts.
Three-point shooting seemed like could have been a difference-maker for the Wildcats. Sophomore forward Nathan Taphorn and freshman forward Vic Law Jr. both knocked down clutch shots from beyond the arc as the game reached its most important stages.
“[Taphorn] made the big three because of all the other stuff he was doing,” Collins said, referring to his other offensive plays. “We need him.”
On the other side of the ball, Butler only hit one three-point shot after attempting five. Collins said after the game that controlling the Bulldogs’s perimeter was part of their game-plan.
Senior guard JerShon Cobb had an off night shooting. He scored five points while going two-for-eight from the field. Another normally hot hand that was a non-factor for Northwestern was junior guard Tre Demps. After starting for the first time this year, he only hit one of eight.
With their toughest non-conference game over with, Northwestern next plays Mississippi Valley State (1-7) on Dec. 14.
— A rough end to the half despite being tied with about a minute left. Even still, have to think Chris Collins is happy with his team’s better-than-expected performance.
— Butler plays a fast-paced, high-volume passing offense that is giving the Northwestern defense fits.
— After not starting, freshman point guard Bryant McIntosh came into the game and hit his first three shots. Senior point guard Dave Sobolewski, who started in his stead, didn’t even attempt a shot.
— Junior center Alex Olah continues to stretch his shooting game out. He hit a shot from downtown, knocking down his 17th shot from beyond the arc in his career (the 4th this season). Having a center that can do that obviously is a big asset to the offense.
— Senior guard JerShon Cobb has not looked very good in this game (or this season, for that matter). He’s scored two points on four shots.
— Butler averages 72.9 points per game. Northwestern averages 60.9. After scoring cooled down halfway through the first, this is shaping up to be a low-scoring affair for both sides.
— No huge statistical discrepancies in this one yet. They are within one turnover of each other and they are within four percentage points in shooting.
Stay here for coverage from Indianapolis. Check out Preston Michelson’s pregame report.