Sunday, December 4, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Baylor 69, Northwestern 41
By Eamonn Brennan
EVANSTON, Ill. -- A few quick notes on Baylor's 69-41 win over Northwestern at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Sunday:
Overview: This game was billed as a clash of styles and systems. Northwestern has its hot outside shooting and tricky Princeton sets; Baylor has its hyper-athletic high-risers and attacking offensive style. By halftime, with Baylor leading 38-21 and all of Welsh-Ryan Arena's energy drained, the talk of a stylistic clash had faded. What was left was the obvious truth: Baylor was just far too talented to lose to the Wildcats on this or any other day. NU desperately needed to make 3s to keep pace with the Bears, but Baylor's length allowed it to challenge even the most open of Wildcats' shooters.
Northwestern never made a second-half surge, never found a spark, never gave its fans something to stick around for after the halftime entertainment -- dogs chasing frisbees, by the way -- gave way to more Baylor buckets. In its first true nonconference road game in nearly two years, Scott Drew's team cruised.
Stat of the game: Well, 14-57 from the field, 4-25 from 3. Yeah: That's what the Wildcats shot Sunday. If Northwestern wanted to take down the No. 8-ranked team in the nation -- a team with superior size, speed, strength, athleticism and at least two likely lottery picks in its starting five -- the Cats absolutely had to make open shots. The prospects looked good. Northwestern entered the game with an average effective field goal percentage of 55.9, the 17th-best mark in the country. So much for prospects. This is hardly the most incisive statistical analysis, but it doesn't have to be: Northwestern missed way, way, way too many open shots to keep this game competitive.
Star of the game: Individual honors feel beside the point for Baylor; the win was so dominant that no one star player ever needed to stand out from the ensemble cast around him. That said, guard Pierre Jackson and forward Quincy Acy both posted notably efficient days, Jackson with 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting, Acy with 16 points on 8-of-10 from the field. Jackson was able to get to the rim with ease against Northwestern's slower guards, and the Wildcats had no answer for Acy's presence around the rim. Meanwhile, the return of forward Perry Jones III continues to come along, even if Jones has yet to dominate in proportion to his talent. (He finished with 12 points on 5-of-8 from the field.)
What it means: Baylor can claim a solid nonconference win, and in a true road game no less. Northwestern can write it off as a particularly cold shooting day at a particularly poor time. Other than that, one imagines neither team will spend much time on the film here. The Wildcats aren't going to play a team as athletic as Baylor until (maybe) Ohio State in Big Ten play, and Baylor won't play a team with Northwestern's unique stylistic characteristics again this season. Still, Baylor's early nonconference tournament resume will get a nice little boost.
What's next: Both teams get a bit of a break. Baylor is off until a cupcake vs. Bethune-Cookman on Dec. 14, while Northwestern's next game a Dec. 15 tilt with Texas Southern. Baylor's next big test will come a few days after the Cookman fixture, when the Bears travel to BYU for another potentially revealing nonconference road test.