Mostly High’s on Northwestern Basketball’s Trip to Spain

The Northwestern men’s basketball team just completed their trip to Spain, which featured five exhibition games against European professional teams.  The Wildcats finished the trip 4-1, their only loss coming in the trip’s opening contest against Estudiantes.

While the all around level of competition may not be on par with what the NCAA, or certainly MG_2340-300x200the Big Ten, have to offer, it was an opportunity for them to face competition long before most teams hit camp.

Before they left, coach Chris Collins spoke about this being an opportunity for them to spend time together, bond as a team and form chemistry. The trip would act as an extended training camp of sorts with a little European vacation thrown in, an opportunity that any college student, or anyone in general, would jump at.

In the game highlights the team looked good, struggling at times out of the gate but making adjustments and finishing strong. Their defensive intensity, something Collins has emphasized in pre and post game comments, was apparent in each of the last four games.

What jumped out to me was how balanced the scoring was. The Wildcats shared the ball, and outside of two dominant performances by Tre Demps in the last two games, the scoring was spread out pretty evenly, with as many as six players scoring in double digits in an individual game.

In game one, the team’s only loss, they allowed the most points to an opponent on the trip, 21 more than the next highest scoring opponent. It was a helpful wake up call for the ‘Cats, who may have underestimated their competition or had trouble adjusting to the different style of play. Northwestern made it close near the end of the game after a run by Estudiantes, but it wasn’t enough as they fell short 84-82. Demps led the way with 19 points, but they struggled to get stops the entire game.

Game two against Eurocolegio Casvi  was an entirely different story, as they started the game on an 8-2 run, and finished the half scoring 16 unanswered points. Sophomore Scottie Lindsey led the way with 21 points, but the broader story in this game was the dominent low post play of Joey van Zegeren, and the hot shooting of freshman Aaron Flazon. The two came off the bench and made huge impacts immediately, van Zegeren with some monster dunks and Falzon from beyond the arc. It was never much of a contest, as the Wildcats took this one 98-50.

In game three the Wildcats got off to a slow start against UCAM Murcia and only led by seven at the half, but another huge second half run put them up by 28 after three quarters. The scoring was led again by Lindsey, who had 20 points, and Demps who had 18. It was the second 20-point performance in a row from the second year forward Lindsey who is looking to make himself a regular rotation player come November. The ‘Cats breezed through the rest of this win, coming out on top 94-54.

Game four against CB Tarragona followed a pattern that had started to become all too similar on this trip – a slow start in the first half and a blowout in the second. The second half domination was due primarily to Demps’ hot hand from behind the arc. Demps finished the game with a trip-high 38 points in a 86-63 rout.

In the team’s final game against USA Toulouges, the Wildcats kept the pattern going with a slow start and a strong finish. The game was close until the end of the first half when Demps and Falzon got hot from behind the arc and put the Wildcats up for good. Demps led the way with 23 points, while Aaron Flazon scored 16 points and Scottie Lindsey added 13.

The biggest take away from this trip was never going to be the wins and losses, but rather the way in which they executed in these games.

There were concerns to focus on in these games primarily against teams that did not seem too terribly competitive. The slow starts are something to keep an eye on. It could have been a case of playing down to their competition or just not being focused to start games, but against better NCAA teams, they will not have the same ability to bounce back. Especially for an underdog Big Ten team like the Wildcats, they cannot afford to start games slow or complacent.

All in all this was a good trip for the team, if for no other reason than they all came back healthy. Some of the highlights of the trip included the play of Scottie Lindsey, who was consistently one of the top one or two scorers. Lindsey certainly made a case for increased minutes this season (he only averaged 15.1mpg last season), alongside starters Bryant McIntosh, Vic Law, Demps and Olah. The Wildcats’ bench showed that it could be promising, with solid play from their newest transfer van Zegeren and the freshmen Falzon and Dererk Pardon. Depth is going to be important this year as they look to win now and also develop their young players for the future.

The Wildcats will have a little time off before they really have to start focusing on the season, which kicks off in November with the CBE Hall of Fame Classic.

 

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