Northwestern out of sync against Iowa

Northwestern is not going to blow teams out with its offense right now. Without its top two scorers in Drew Crawford and Jershon Cobb (both gone for the year), a lot of the offensive punch is gone and a lot of the aggression and ability to improvise out of the offense is also gone.

Bill Carmody said he wanted to slow the game down and rely on Northwestern’s efficiency on offense and its ability to work for a full 35 seconds on the shot clock to keep them in games and give them a chance. This strategy relies on a whole bunch of things — getting back in transition, making 3-pointers and avoiding turnovers.

None of those three things happened against Iowa and the results were disastrous because of that.

The Hawkeyes held the Wildcats to 15 points in the first half. That would have been OK for Northwestern if the team could keep Iowa from scoring. But the Hawkeyes closed the half on a 14-4 run (insurmountable considering the Wildcats’ offensive struggles) and then found their offense while the Wildcats continued to be stuck in the mud. It was an ugly performance and Iowa’s 70-50 margin probably does not reveal how much Iowa dominated the game at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Sunday.

Score Off. Rtg. eFG% O.Reb.% TO% FTR
Iowa 70 102.5 49.2 22.2 10.5 19.0
Northwestern 50 78.1 34.3 18.4 12.7 49.0

The stats Northwestern will have to watch are 3-point shooting, turnovers and assists-to-field goals.

The Wildcats hit on only 5 of their 26 3-point attempts (19.2 percent), turned the ball over nine times and had just nine assists on 15 field goal makes. NU shot 29.4 percent and so the high assist ratio probably hides the fact that Northwestern could not get the Princeton offense moving. Iowa did a good job pressuring ball handlers and cutters and it seemed like NU’s young guards got a little tentative playing against it.

That is not the place the Wildcats want to be. Particularly if NU wants to limit possessions and shorten the game.

Iowa was able to get out in transition and pick apart an over-aggressive Northwestern defense in the second half, scoring 45 points in the final 20 minutes. There it seemed it was a parade of precise passes through the zone and missed defensive rotations and assignments for Northwestern. Again, with the game shortened, every possession becomes more valuable and mistakes become magnified.

Northwestern made a lot of those and could not find the offense to make up for it.

Dave Sobolewski scored 14 points, but shot 4 for 12 from the floor and committed four of NU’s nine turnovers. Tre Demps had 10 points, but made only 3 of his 11 attempts. Reggie Hearn and Mike Turner were the only other Northwestern players to make more than two field goals in the game and only Turner shot 50 percent or better, making two of his four shots.

The Princeton offense is built on efficiency. Northwestern was not efficient in the least tonight.

It will be back to the drawing board a bit for Northwestern as the team has to find a way to manufacture scoring opportunities when 3-pointers are not falling. Perhaps that means being more patient and confident with the offense — there are a lot of young players new to the system being called on for major minutes. Perhaps that means adding new wrinkles to the offense or changing the way NU plays a bit. Perhaps it means switching up the rotation — Nikola Cerina came in for spot-up duty and Alex Marcotullio is still coming off the bench.

These are decisions Bill Carmody will have to make.

One thing is for sure. What Northwestern looked like in Sunday’s loss is not how we are accustomed to Northwestern’s offense looking, even when the team was bad. It never struggled so much to get shots or looked so discouraged that it abandoned things a bit to try and play catch up. Even after the win at Penn State it is hard to find much positive to say about Northwestern right now.

  • Dan

    good job

    good effort

    • zeek

      That’s pretty much all you can say after a game like this. One of the uglier losses of the past couple of years for sure.

  • cebpd

    here’s a decision Jim Phillips will make: FIRE CARMODY

    • I don’t want to take too much from one game. But Carmody is supposed to be an offense coach. Today the offense looked as bad as I have ever seen it with Carmody. Something to keep an eye on. Don’t want to draw too many conclusions off of one game.

      • Chasmo

        What’s really sad is how bad Olah and Abrahamson are.
        Before the season, Carmody said that for the first time since he’s been at NU, he had a player to whom the Cats could throw the ball down in the post and have him be able to score. Yikes! That statement makes me wonder if Carmody is still using Ivy League criteria when evaluating high school big men. Olah is making it clear why, as a seven-footer prep schooler in Indiana, he had no other Big Ten offers.
        Abrahamson in high school was able to get to the basket and hit contested shots but in college he can’t do either of those things.
        How far away from contributing is 7-2 Ajou if he can’t take minutes away from Olah or Turner?
        Lumpkin is probably every NU fans’ favorite recruit because he has yet to be able to show us his limitations.
        This latest recruiting class right now seems like a bust.

        • bd005

          Uhm, how many points did Iowa’s 4 star recruits have?

          A whopping 5 pts combined (and that’s against the ‘Cats’ depleted D).
          Now does this mean Woodbury and Gesell are busts?
          Of course not. Aside from lottery pick type players (the ones who actually pan out), the vast majority of frosh will struggle and have their ups and downs.

          • Db

            But it’s completely on carmody to let olah play and develop him. There is nothing remotely as important than his development, and him getting 11mins is destructive. Period.

            If he is coaching scared then he should be fired mid season, let Tavares finish it out, then go get a coach at year end. While we all know this wont happen, I frame it that way to emphasize what a horrible development it will be if olah is relegated to the bench. He is the future of the program, he has to play.

          • Noah Kimmel

            completely agree. As tough as it is to admit, this year is a rebuilding year. That means we cant focus on the W-L as much as we focus on getting the right guys and lineups enough minutes to feel comfortable, learn, grow, and develop. The only way to salvage this season is to make sure it fuels a fire and sets us up for future success.

  • cheesemacaroni

    This team is not good. At all. And the injuries have made everything worse. But I’ve been surprised at how many superlatives I’ve heard about how bad this team is. This is not Carmody’s worst season, as anyone who suffered through his first three, or four, or six, can tell you. Even Pomeroy’s stats say that the 2005 and 2006 seasons were worse.

  • Chasmo

    Even with Crawford and Cobb both at 100% and in the starting lineup, this NU team would NOT have made a run at a NCAA tournament bid. Without them, NU is back to where it has been four previous times under Carmody.
    Carmody’s 3-13 Big Ten record in 2000-01 and 3-13 conference mark in 2002-03 were not all his fault as he had been on the job only three years at the time. But when when he went 2-14 in 2006-07 and 1-17 in 2007-08, those were his teams. Now Carmody is back to fielding a team that will probably not win more than three Big Ten games.
    The last time a Carmody team sucked, it came back the next year to earn a NIT bid. When Crawford and Cobb return, the Cats will be able to repeat that feat.
    Is that a good enough reason to keep Carmody around for another year?
    Let’s see what Phillips and Morty decide.

  • Country Boy

    I am sorry to say I was at the game. I have not seen a Northwestern team play this bad on offense or defense for a long time. On offense the ball stayed on the perimeter with virtually no inside probing. Our defense looked clueless on stopping what Iowa wanted to do. Carmody called hist first time out of the first half at the 3 minute mark. I guess he had nothing to offer. After the game on his interview with WGN radio, he had no answers either, but did get 3 digs in at his own players: 1.” Abrahamson can make shots but can’t get open to have a shot”, 2.” Demps can score but hurts us on the defensive end”, and 3.” Olah is too slow”. I am sure that kind of sniping ruins the confidence of young players..What a coach and human being. I am clueless as to how he stays in this job. Jim Phillips and the administration should be ashamed.The team looked totally demoralized. I would not be surprised to see some players transfer out of the program.

    • uvawildcat

      I completely agree…how can such a negative coach potentially be successful here? I think it HAS to be the end of the line for carmody and the offensive offense.

  • Deb

    Has anyone seen a girls jv high school game recently? I feel like the past two sundays, at least the first half of each, resembled just that. Problem is only one team realized after half that they are actually a d1 big ten team. How sad this is.

  • The noise was getting louder by the fans everywhere i turned saying “enough”. The lack of aggression on offense was mystifying. The 3-man weave until the shot clock hit :10 (and then the coaching staff would yell “TEN!!!”) which led to desperation heave after the next was just awful. Awful, awful game.

    • TB

      Just for the record, that guy has always yelled ‘ten’. That’s his job.

  • Alan Casey

    Tough night! Even pollyanna turned off the game mid0second half.

  • Alum Dad

    I was considering attending the game yesterday. Fortunately I decided to go see Zero Dark Thirty instead. I did watch the game after I got home. Yikes!! This is the last NU basketball game I intend to watch this season. I can’t take any more. What a horrible example of a B1G basketball team. I think Carmody has outlived his shelf life. Jim Phillips needs to bite the bullet and move in a new direction.

    • Noah Kimmel

      Its funny–when the other B1G coaches give Carmody all the respect in the world, is it because

      a) hes that good, and NU has trouble even after so many years
      b) they like playing the easy team
      c) some kind of coaches bond where they dont trash each other publicly

      I think it may be time to move in a new direction. Carmody got us here and we should be thankful, but that doesn’t mean he can take us where we want to go.

      I believe in values for our coaches, but I also believe in attitude and success, and Carmody tends to be a negative guy who hasnt been successful in reaching that next level. Maybe its unfair, and maybe were especially tough given the football success, but one program is on the rise while the other stalls….

  • PurpleHayes

    I was there, and agree with all the comments about the offense hitting a low point. Having watched Carmody’s offense a dozen years, three things about this year’s offense puzzle me–one has been commented on, the other two maybe not:
    * This concept of “make them play defense for 34 seconds before we shoot” has some merit, but running an innocuous 3-man weave for 25 seconds and then shouting “TEN” isn’t the same. We are no threat in the first half of the shot clock. Run the offense–hard–and if the opening is there, take it.
    * If the shot clock gets to :05 or so, you need a player or two who can create their own shot. Last year, although John Shurna could occasionally amaze in this regard, truthfully we had two such players: Drew Crawford and Jershon Cobb. Oops. (But rather than be the victims, we need to play within this and not suddenly look around at the end of the shot clock, puzzled.)
    * And finally, maybe someone can explain–the backbone of the Princeton offense is cutters, with space in the lane should they get open. I’m welcoming of two low-post players this year, but now with Olah on the low post, he gets in the way! We should either run Princeton or a more traditional offense–this seems like a hybrid (how many shots did Mbakwe block/disrupt for Minnesota because Olah put him in defensive position to simply step out and do so)?
    There’s “Princeton”, and there’s “Good hard smart Princeton”. Even if our personnel are lacking, we need to run “Good hard” or not at all.

    • NorCalCat

      Thinking back on the actual Princeton team that made the tourney and knocked off UCLA I seem to recall they had a big man who could shoot. Thus when he caught the ball at the top of the key the opposing big was forced to come out and guard him opening the lane for cuts and drives. Since we’ve started running the Princeton offense we’ve never had a big that was a consistent shooter. That’s on Carmody. If he insists on running that style offense at least recruit the right personnel for the job!

      • MNWildcat

        If memory serves, Turner hasn’t been *awful* at shooting from the top of the key this year–but he’s a liability passing the ball. If we could put the best of Olah with the best of Turner, we’d have a decent center. Unfortunately…

  • purplebuff

    Anybody else notice how difficult it is for NU to set decent screens…….doing that successfully could/should lead to more back door buckets or pick and roll shots

  • Alaskawildcat

    Live or die by the three. If we could have upped our 3 point success percentage up to 35% the game would have been a win.