Sigh. We’ll be writing for the next two months about various ways Northwestern will lose B1G games. This one raised an eyebrow. Let’s face it, few folks gave a injury-depleted NU team a prayer against the high flying ninth-ranked team in the nation in their quirky gym. Yet, there was NU going old school Carmody and playing in to the stereotypes of the Princeton offense (low scoring, stall ball) that we’ve worked so hard to try and overcome. The ‘Cats completely dominated the tempo of the first half and found themselves down just three points, a whopping 17-14, at the half as a result. However, Minnesota was unable to convert on second chance points, despite owning the glass, as that Achilles heel of Carmody’s program, complete inept rebounding, would come back to haunt them.
This one had you sit up in your seat for ahwile anyway. Northwestern took the air out of the ball in the first half and seemed just as awkward as everyone else witnessing the stall ball as David Sobolewski rarely got going with more than :10 on the shot clock. The problem was Northwestern was then in desperation mode and so out of sorts having not played much this way under Carmody that ultimately the strategy would backfire. Well, that’s not entirely true.
Minnesota had 21 offensive rebounds, besting NU’s ENTIRE rebounding total (20), which is up there in terms of embarassing stats. However, it really was a lack of communication and complete and utter assignment and switching breakdowns that cost NU in this one. The ‘Cats somehow lost sight of where Gopher sharp-shooter, Austin Hollins was, which was amazing as everyone in the stands was eyeing him with full attention. Hollins went off midway through the second half hitting five, yes FIVE, straight three pointers, yet NU couldn’t seem to find him coming up the floor. It was phenomenal shooting and abysmal defense all rolled in to one. By the time he hit his third straight three, it felt like we were down four touchdowns in this possession oriented game. Northwestern opened the game shooting a miserable 5-of-18 in the first half and that was after scoring a few early. It was that kind of night.
Northwestern (9-6,0-2) did have Reggie Hearn back, which was great, and the warrior was out there hobbling around, but still making his presence felt as NU’s leading scorer (11 points), yet he was far from the pre ankle injury vs Stanford Reggie. It’s a start to have him back on the floor and we’ll need him. NU big man Alex Olah seems to be stuck in neutral as he’s not improving his low post moves and was at times intimidated against the fierce swat blocking bigs of Minnesota. Our fearless leader David Sobolewski was getting jumped by the Minnesota bigs in nasty traps late in the shot clock as Tubby Smith wisely tried to cut the head of our offense off. Until other guys like Jared Swopshire realize they’ll have to step up bigtime for us to have a shot, we’re going to continue to get pounded.
This plain was not fun to watch. It was quite ugly actually. Once Minnesota staked out a double-digit lead, they smelled blood and just put on a clinic on how to take transition misses and attack, attack, attack. The Gophers would split defenders and put on a dunkfest as our guys seemed confused on how to step up and attempt to take a charge. Perhaps the life had already been sucked out of us, but the second half sure lacked a lot of heart on the side of the purple.
Northwestern ventures to Penn State on Thursday night for a legit shot at one of their few potential conference wins this season. With a brutal front loaded schedule, this team could sure use it.