Snapping Terps End NU’s ACC/B1G Challenge Win Streak

Photo by Charles Rex Arbogast/AP/Yahoo!

The Wildcats program has grown to the point where they can compete with just about any team even on a bad night. Through 20 minutes against Maryland, that certainly seemed true as Maryland was unable to take advantage of its size, as Maryland saw the game slow to a grinding pace and as Maryland struggled to protect the ball, committing 11 first-half turnovers.

Northwestern though is still young enough with this roster that such inconsistent play on offense cannot last while NU stays in the game. The Terrapins, certainly the best team the Cats had seen to this point, figured things out in the second half and blew the doors open.

Maryland shot better than 60 percent in the second half, committed only two second-half turnovers (13 for the game) and picked apart an inexperienced Northwestern defense. The Wildcats went man and Alex Len got the ball in the post or picked the ball off the basket for an extra possession. If the Wildcats went to the 1-3-1 zone, the Terrapins were patient moving the ball around the perimeter, finding shooters in the corner for open 3-pointers.

Northwestern was unable to get its offense moving. The backdoor cuts that worked well to keep NU competitive in the first half were shut off as Maryland adjusted to the offense’s timing and made NU really have to grind to get good shots. And when the Cats did, 3-pointers would not fall or Len or the Terrapins’ other post players were there to challenge shots at the rim.

The two-point deficit at the half was transformed fairly quickly into a 20-point deficit in the second half as Bill Carmody and Northwestern were left without any answers to solve this suddenly hot Maryland team. The Terrapins did their part for the ACC (while they still could) in defeating the Wildcats 77-57 at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Tuesday.

Score Off. Rtg. eFG% O.Reb.% TO% FTR
Maryland 77 119.42 58.3 45.5 17.5 31.5
Northwestern 57 90.9 39.6 8.6 4.6 41.5

Northwestern’s defense might be a problem all of its own that will get broken down unendingly before the next game, but tonight the offense did not quite carry its weight. Ostensibly, the Wildcats are still an offensive team.

But NU shot just 34.0 percent from the floor in this game and hit only 6 of the team’s 25 3-point attempts. Many of these shots were either open or came off flare screens. They were good looks, but just did not go in. Sometimes shots do not fall.

In the first half, Northwestern was able to make up for this by taking advantage of Maryland’s turnovers and working through the offense. The trouble offensively came for the Wildcats when they took shots too quickly or got bogged down going up against the Terrapins’ size.

It got even worse because Northwestern was unable to gain any traction on the glass. The Terrapins outrebounded the Wildcats 42-15, taking advantage of all those missed shots and grabbing 10 offensive rebounds of their own. Particularly in the second half, Len was able to get to the offensive glass, grabbing six offensive rebounds, and setting up others. Maryland’s ability to get second chance opportunities seemed to deflate Northwestern especially since NU had one opportunity on the other end with no rebounding force or ability to contest.

Alex Olah may one day get there, but the freshman looked completely outmatched by Alex Len, a likely lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Len scored 13 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the game, but his effect clearly went beyond the stats.

The Wildcats just could not go much of anywhere to get offense to match Maryland in the second half. Drew Crawford shot only 4 for 14 from the floor in scoring 10 points. Reggie Hearn had a solid game in scoring 19 points and Dave Sobolewski had 14 points on 3-for-6 shooting (posting a 73.5 percent true shooting percentage thanks to hitting six of his eight free throws and a 66.7 percent effective field goal percentage thanks to his 2-for-3 shooting performance from beyond the arc).

Jared Swopshire was a necessary player for the offensive glass, but never got into a rhythm after foul trouble took him virtually out of the first half.

In all likelihood, this is not the offensive performance we will see out of Northwestern on most nights. This is just not a team that struggles to execute this much and fails to hit on makeable 3-pointers at the rate NU was in this game. And likely too, the Wildcats will not see a center prospect of Len’s quality again this season.

This was a game that the team can hopefully use to grow. Alex Olah now knows where he needs to go. The Wildcats now know the level they have to execute at to win these kind of games. And defensively, they know they MUST rebound to have a chance. Particularly on nights when they struggle like this.

Maryland is quite clearly a pretty good team. The question now becomes whether games like this one and the Illinois State game are who this team is or just a blip in the development of this relatively young roster.

  • cs

    Two disturbing things about this loss that remind me too much of the deficiencies of recent years.

    1. Lack of rebounding. Perhaps this is understandable given that Maryland is an excellent rebounding team, but being outrebounded 47–19 is ridiculous even against a team with bigs like Maryland has. We are supposedly bigger this year but it didn’t look like it on the boards tonight. Yeah, we rebounded well against Illinois State and TCU over the weekend, but those aren’t teams with much size and strength. This poor rebounding night does not bode well for the Big Ten season.

    2. Living and dying by the 3. With Maryland turning the ball over a ton in the first half, we had a chance to open a sizable lead but kept missing shots from long range (16 of our 28 FG attempts in the 1st half were from outside the 3-point arc and we only hit 3 of them). Even more disturbing was the shot selection of many of these 3-point attempts. Yeah, there were open looks but guys were fading away, shooting from too deep beyond the arc, or rushing the shot and not getting their feet set.

    Let’s hope for a better performance against UIC this weekend. The Flames look like an improved team but I want to see a blowout win after tonight.

    • NUNYC2005

      CS – completely agree with you but also note the following.

      1. Offensive Flow – We’ve had absolutely no flow to our offense the past two games and much of that stems from our inability to penetrate. We stand around the 3-pt line and huck up a shot (Turner’s bricked 3s, Abrahamson’s clangs off of screens that weren’t even close, Crawford, etc.). For this to work, we need to be able to shoot the ball.

      2. Crawford – I think we’re going to realize that Crawford is not the same player without Shurna as the #1. Reggie Hearn has looked like our best player out there and unless Drew can find a way to get more involved and be more consistent, we are going to be in a lot of trouble.

      3. Point Guard Spot – We still miss Juice Thompson big time. Sobo can actually hit the three and I’d rather him shooting them than most of the other guys on the floor. Still, he’s not the same leader, doesn’t play the same D as juice.

      4. Shooting – There was a post earlier in the year in which one of the NU players stated that the team is more athletic but doesn’t have the same shooters. I think we are seeing that play out. Even if we get open shots this team can’t him them like the teams of the past few years.

      Hoping things turn around but right now I’m worried about the remaining non-con schedule.

      • cs

        NUNYC2005,

        Good comment. I agree with all 4 of your points. Right now, I’m also worried about the remaining non-conference games against strong teams like Baylor and Butler (I think we can beat Stanford at home). But I’m even more worried about the Big Ten schedule. Many pundits have us finishing 10th—ahead of only Penn State and Nebraska. That would keep us firmly off the tourney bubble. At first, I disagreed and thought we would finish more like 7th or 8th and be on the bubble yet again. But after the Maryland game, I’m thinking the pundits may be right. The Baylor game next week will confirm where this team sits in the national and Big 10 picture.

  • AdamDG

    The Wildside twitter account alluded to some “inappropriate” student section chants… what was said that was so inappropriate for a group of 18-22 year olds to yell (against Maryland — a school with a notoriously vulgar student section — no less)?

  • Drew

    Recognizing the exciting season NU had last year after being blown out by Baylor, I hesitate to be too negative after just one awful game, but I don’t feel good about this team making an NCAA Tourney run this year.

    Drew Crawford is the best player on this team and if he continues to disappear for long stretches, they have no chance. Sure, they need to rebound better and the young guys need to mature quickly, but the biggest issue with this team? There just aren’t any deadly shooters (other than Crawford when he gets hot). Sobo and Hearn can knock them down, but there’s no one on the roster that other teams will fear like Shurna, Juice, Coble, Craig Moore, etc. I’m excited we have better size, and perhaps more athleticism, but the Princeton offense isn’t going to be effective if you don’t have multiple guys who can consistently knock down the 3.

    Losing Jershon Cobb (if he were to stay healthy and play at the level he finished at last season) is a big loss for the Wildcats. Hopefully, Bill Carmody and the staff can work magic and develop these guys quickly, but I just didn’t see any players with any elite skills out there tonight, and that worries me. I hope I’m wrong…

    • cs

      I totally agree with you. So far, Crawford does not look like he improved much since last season. He’s still hot-and-cold with his jump shots and has a tendency to force shots when he goes into slasher mode. But at least he always plays hard. We don’t have a knock-down shooter this year, but the hope was that improve size, depth, and athleticism would compensate for the loss of Shurna. Tonight, that did not happen. Cobb will clearly be missed this year. I hope he sticks around for next year and doesn’t bail like Coble did.

      • NUmanager

        Easy. One bad game… Hearn and Sobo are both over 50% from three this year.

    • CM

      Great point about the Baylor game last year. What a mess that was. Just goes to show that sometimes you don’t match-up well against a team and the game can get ugly. The defense (especially in the post) worries me immensely despite Maryland’s talent. But I have faith they will work through it and improve.

      To your Crawford point, I want to mention what Carmody said last night. He talked about being unhappy with the senior leadership and he called them out for it…that they need to do a better job. That immediately struck me as a veiled message to Crawford. For as talented as he is, over the past three years he has had more than his share of “no-show” games. With Reggie looking very consistent already, I think Bill was trying to send the message to Drew that his team needs him night in and night out if they are going to succeed. “No-show” games aren’t gonna fly on a team that desperately needs its most talented player to be consistent. I thought Carmody was good in his post-game. No coach speak. He was straightforward and didn’t mince words. I’m optimistic for Saturday and for the games to come.

  • David

    Wow…that was an ugly second half. Not sure how it ended…but Maryland must have shot 70% in the second half. Our guys seem to need more time to gel together.

  • http://twitter.com/LakeThePosts Lake The Posts

    If Turgeon had left Len in and demanded he touch it every time, we lose by 40. We “died by the three”…you’re going to have nights like that in our offense. I hope Alex Olah watches tape of Len’s low post moves – it was a clinic and a lot to learn from. Just one game..look at UNC.

  • Al

    If we had made more of our shots, Maryland’s rebounding edge would diminish significantly.

    It’s just one game. We have time to recover from it.

  • Alumdad

    Just finished watching the game on the DVR this morning after watching the first half last night. What a disaster. I thought things were supposed to be different this year but that second half reminded me of so many other seasons where the Cats have been severely over-matched. I think Crawford has regressed from his freshman season. If he is our go-to-guy we are going to have big issues once the conference season begins. I know it was only one game, but what a stinker. Glad I decided against attending.

  • JM

    Just a terrible performance, headlined by Crawford’s no show. Shot selection was awful, defense and FT shooting worse. The only bright spot is that the schedule is now substantial enough where a noncon loss or two won’t doom our NCAA prospects.

  • CatInTheHat

    Not much to add to the good analysis above and below. I was surprised that there wasn’t more hand-wringing previously over the loss of JerShon Cobb, but I think his value is now painfully apparent. Also, echoing the ESPN2 announcers and others, teams that live and die by the 3 usually don’t go very far. Not panicking too much over this one, as we (and hopefully the coaches) learned quite a bit about the limitations of the team and what they need to do to minimize the downside.

  • Nate

    Defense looked very sloppy, leaving people wide open on the interior…hoping the big men can grow up fast, NU will need them when the 3′s aren’t falling.
    Nervous, but patient. Baylor next week should be a telling matchup. It looks as if this will be one of those “all hands on deck” kind of years.

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