‘Cats Dig Too Big Of Hole To Come All The Way Back, Bow To Hoosiers 67-59

After beating Illinois on Thursday to up the ‘Cats B1G road wins mark to four of the last five, many joked perhaps we should just play on the road. Well, in essence today’s home game was just that in another embarassment for NU basketball as the Hoosier crowd outnumbered purple significantly with a 66/33 split in favor of the visitors. The age old battle for trying to keep the Chicago area alums of our opponents away will really only come when we become a hot ticket. After seemingly destined for single digits in the first half (we were stuck at 9 points forever), that day is a long way away.  You wonder if the lack of NU fans, clearly with 4-digits of them giving or selling tickets to IU fans will become a key metric in Jim Phillips’ year-end assessment of the program.

While we’re on the topic of crowd, bravo to the student section today for packing the place and really getting in to the game. When NU made its second half run, you were awesome and were able to drown out the sea of cream and crimson. If only we could get that kind of student support every game, it would make a huge difference. Great job.

Northwestern played a stellar second half against Indiana (16-2, 4-1), the nation’s #2 team (until tomorrow when the new rankings come out), but they had dug themselves too big of a hole with a rather putrid offensive performance in the opening half. Candidly, Reggie Hearn seemed to be the only Wildcat with any hint of aggression on offense and he single-handedly saved us from a blowout by providing enough points to muscle us to a 14-point (31-17) halftime deficit. The Hoosiers were on hyper-aggressive mode, trying to get to the glass within the first :05 of each possession and pounding the glass for another Carmody-era rebounding tipped scales stat sheet that we’ve come to know and hate.

However, the second half was a completely different story. Jared Swopshire hit another gear and Hearn continued his stellar play, while NU really sprung a curveball by going 1-3-1 with about 8 minutes to go in the game and it caused the Hoosiers all kinds of problems. NU was able to mount a furious comeback, cutting the lead all the way down to five, but then NU couldn’t contain IU when it counted as Victor Oladipo buried a back-breaking three, followed by a game-clinching putback by Cody Zeller who just dominated the ‘Cats on the glass en route to a 23-point, 10

For A Moment There Was Belief Of Another Upset...

rebound day. Down the stretch it turned in to a FT shooting contest as the Hoosiers, led by Zeller’s 9-10 performance at the line, hit them when they needed them, while NU continued their season-long struggles from the charity stripe.

Hearn paced NU with 22 points on a dazzling performance mixing up pull-up jumpers with crafty moves in traffic and he combined with Jared Swopshire (13 points) to keep NU in this one. Once again, Tre Demps was inexplicably held out of the game for most of the first half despite an obvious lack of aggression and penetration by the NU guards.  Demps candidly forced things once he did get in, but as usual was able to create off the dribble and at least attempt to attack the basket. Freshmen Kale Abrahamson and Alex Olah still looked timid and lacking confidence to take shots on offense, a troubling trend that will need to change for NU to progress now that we’re in the meat of the schedule. Demps finished with 11 points on the day and only 16 minutes of action and as many of you have pointed out, it is clear he’s still trying to find the balance between creating offense and playing within the system, the result of which is a few poor shots per game.

Overall, the play of NU was encouraging in a game where I gave them zero shot. The defense played rather well and forced Indiana to really work on each possession, and played extremely well when we went zone.  Again, our lack of rebounding was a factor, but then again few in the nation can stop Cody Zeller’s incredible nose for the ball.  The ‘Cats showed flashes of real progress, but failed to play consistently throughout the game. As Gus Johnson and Mike Kelley noted, NU was getting quality looks, but just couldn’t make shots, the Carmody mantra.

NU drops to 11-7, 2-4 and continues its tough slate with a home date with top ten Minnesota on Wednesday night at 8pm ct at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Northwestern’s technical home winning streak against IU ends at three and the ‘Cats have now won 6 of the last 9 against IU. Here’s hoping we don’t get embarassed again by visiting fans outnumbering our fans on Wednesday.

  • Bandcat

    LTP with you on the Demps issue. Play him and Sobo together backcourt. Hearn and Swop at forward. Lets see what our backcourt can become for next year. These four on the floor together give NU the opportunity to take it to the hole. There must be someway to make that work within Carmody’s system. Olah at this point a good passer at least. Mike Turner..OMG he is not even close to a B1G player after a Red Shirt season. Spot Marco and Kyle for blows at this time in their careers.. Tired of being close but no Cigar…Plan on making Senior day to give Reggie a standing ovation for all he has done at NU..Best walk on hoops player ever at NU IMHO.

    • PeoriaCat

      Couldn’t agree with you more about Reggie – I am a close follower of the team and I actually find what he has done to be nothing short of inspirational. He is a special young man.

      Go Cats

      • Great to see him back at full strength. My concern with this program is that next year, no Reggie, no Swop and freshmen plateauing, it’s going to be much of the same as Drew will be our #1 that guys key on and Cobb will be our guard version of Swop.

        • bd005

          Hearn will be a big loss (his frosh and soph years were a waste – didn’t play much at all), but that will be made up by Crawford coming back.

          Swop is inconsistent on the offensive end; Cobb will be a more consistent scorer for the ‘Cats.

          Where Swop shines is in his D, but Cobb and Lumpkin are tough defenders (maybe Turner will get there too on D).

          What this team is missing is consistent O from more than just one player (Hearn).

          Next season, Crawford, Cobb and Demps should be able to give consistent O in most games w/ Sina, Sobo and Lumpkin chipping in – that should be enough O from the guard/swing positions.

          The key will be to get more production from Olah and Cerina on O and to get some decent D from Ajou and Turner.
          Also, Sobo just hasn’t been enough of an offensive threat in B1G play – not hitting many 3 pt shots aside from the PSU game and missing way too many FTs.

          If Sobo had hit a couple more shots and made more of his FTs, the ‘Cats may have walked away w/ a win today.
          Hopefully, Sina can take some pressure off Sobo at point, letting him rest his legs and alleviating some of the scoring burden.

        • Everything that @bd005:disqus said, and also remember that Carmody believed Lumpkin was the most “game-ready” freshman of the bunch. Of course, that has not stopped him from starting Alex Olah but that is a post for another time.

    • Is it close in the walk-on department? With all due respect to Tommy Kramer, Tony Ling and Kyle Henneberry, the guy is averaging 16 ppg with a bum ankle and a scouting report as the only real offensive threat.

    • bd005

      Turner does some things on the defensive end, don’t expect to have much of an offensive game as of yet as a shooter, but he needs to be more aggressive around the basket (same goes for Olah).

      • bandcat

        Turner and Olah played high school hoops in non competitive environments by B1G standards….it really shows. Olah will be an improvement over Luka M…Turner????????

        • bd005

          Turner can play decent D.

  • Alum Dad

    Better than average performance by the Cats. I expected them to lose by 20+ again. Frustrating to be out-numbered by visiting fans at home. Part of the price you pay when you have very little basketball tradition/success. I hope I live long enough to see this change.

  • The second half gave me hope. That first half was about what I expected, though. Cats are coming up on a big stretch in the B1G schedule right now, and hopefully they can at least split the next six.

  • skepticat

    0-4 on 3-point shooting to start the game, with at least two of them being wide-open looks (if Dave Eanet is to be believed), would seem to be the difference in this game. Just as going 5-6 from beyond the arc to start seemed to be the difference at Illinois. Don’t know if you’d put that discrepancy in execution on coaching or what, but just saying.

    • Our system is what it is. Live by the 3, die by it. Starting 1-10 from three equals death against a top ten team like Indiana.

      • skepticat

        Wow, it got to 1-10? Lost the radio broadcast for a muted bar TV with the attendant distractions. Make that even 3-4 out of 10, it’s a different game. Maybe not a win, but probably also not trying to make up 5-6 points in the last couple minutes.

        • PDXCat

          A couple extra made shots (2’s or 3’s) and/or Olah’s 3 going down at the first half buzzer (instead of going around the rim a couple times and squirting out) and we go in at half down single digits (and with an Olah make, maybe even a bit of a momentum buzz). As Gus noted, we have a bunch of freshmen on the bench. Playing a good bit in their first B1G season will help in the long run. Given what could have happened today, this isn’t SO discouraging. If it’s a matter of making a couple shots here and there (when the looks ARE there) as opposed to being blown away in effort/talent/preparation/game plan/etc. I can live with these kinds of losses. And the FT pct. has shown an uptick the last couple of games. I’m not calling for a moral victory, just sayin’ . . . But, really, a team so adept at the fundamentals, why can we not box out and hit FTs?!?!

          GO CATS!

          • bd005

            Add Sobo hitting both his FTs a couple of times and not missing the front end of 1and1s as well.

      • I am going to try to find a site that charts shot locations for college games (if you know one, let me know!). It feels like NU runs an outside-in offense right now. The Cats need to make 3s or establish Olah in the post early to loosen up the defense. The BTN broadcast did a good job pointing out how Cody Zeller just played center field in the paint and kept NU out of the paint. Either someone needs to create or the team needs to hit shots to get some penetration.

  • cece

    this is very confusing. is Carmody a bad game coach because we can’t win this game? or is he a good game coach because we beat Illinois and did so well today as he coaches on with a team not filled with the players we expected for this season. and what do we think of his ability to recruit to get us what we need? thinking of more than this one game.

    • bandcat

      It comes down to being able to adjust your system.. I am not well versed enough in the X and Os..Living and dying by the 3 to open up the back door cutters..there must be a better way with the kids that we have to generate some O. Why can’t Bill try something different with this crew? He has mixed up the defenses this year and it is working. Just do not think a lot of high school kids are impressed with the Princeton O, which hurts our recruiting. For better or worse we live in an up tempo world. The shot clock took away a lot of the slings to kill the Goliaths.

    • Chasmo

      Bill Carmody is an excellent coach when it comes to X’s and O’s. He is a poor motivator and an absolutely terrible recruiter.
      If NU had better players or if those players didn’t come out flat at the start of so many games, Carmody would have taken NU to the NCAA tournament several times by now because he is an excellent coach. But when Carmody’s kids can’t match up athletically with most conference opponents and don’t match the intensity of most Big Ten foes, Carmody must depend on opponents playing very badly (Penn State, Illinois) in order to win games.
      That’s not a good situation to be in.
      Let’s hope Minnesota really stinks the joint out on Wednesday.

      • bd005

        Right, b/c it wasn’t the NU D which kept PSU, UI and IU’s offensive production down from their norm (and that’s w/ missing 4 of their most athletic players – Cobb, Crawford, Lumpkin and Cerina).

        The slow starts hinge on the talent discrepancy, not “motivation.”
        Swop is inconsistent on the offensive end and Sobo has been stinking it up (both from the 3 pt and FT line); that leaves Hearn as the only consistent scorer.

        Swop and Sobo weren’t meant to be the 2nd and 3rd option; Crawford, Cobb and Hearn would have been the “big 3” this season.
        As for recruiting, there are numerous reasons – much of which is institutional.

        Before the modest upgrades to the locker-rooms, etc. – BC had to make excuses to recruits so that he wouldn’t have to show what a complete joke they were.

        It’s no coincidence that recruiting started to pick up after the facilities were upgraded (as modest as it was).

        And we have seen some of the most talented players that have worn purple – VVukusic, Coble, Juice, Shurna, Crawford – and likely Cobb, Demps, Lumpkin and Sina.

        The problem has been injuries or other things – since the ‘Cats dpn’t have the depth to make up for such losses, otherwise, the ‘Cats likely would have made the NCAA already (maybe twice).

  • Nate

    I thought NU could pull a little of that Sunday magic with Gus on the call, but a brutal first half pretty much sealed their fate.
    Pardon me for asking as I have not been up to date on the hoops stories during this apparent down year, but whatever happened to Nikola Cerina, the TCU transfer? I was led to believe that he would spell Olah and Turner down low. I’m also puzzled as to why some of the other guys (Lumpkin, Jimenez, Ajou) don’t get some more game action during what I view a “player development year”. I thought the bench would be a little deeper this year but it appears to be the same rotation each game.
    Here’s hoping Olah can refine his game and become more of a back to the basket type of center…he’s gonna have to make a significant step forward next year when Crawford and Cobb are back to really push this squad over the hump. I like the kid, but I thought NU was getting an actual post player, not another high post play-setter.

    • nufandan

      Cerina is still recovering from an ankle injury i believe

  • PurpleHayes

    I thought the team played hard, and pretty well. The shots didn’t drop–the “die by the sword” commenters are all correct, but there we are–you have to be pleased with a defensive effort that keeps one of the highest scoring offenses in the country in the 60’s. Much of that was stopping transition/fast-break scores, and I give Carmody some credit for that. Likewise, our zone defense execution was terrific. That defense can lead to dunks if not played perfectly, and we executed. My big issue yesterday was starting Kale Abrahamson–again–and watching the offense struggle at the beginning. Clearly he wasn’t the only reason, but would an early dose of Demps have given us a chance to at least hang in there? Abrahamson brought nothing to the table, in any aspect, and his minutes were all a downer for us. When Carmody starts a young player, he seems stubborn about persisting (Kyle Rowley?), and he’s doing it again with a player who clearly isn’t ready. Yes, Demps takes a bad shot or two, but he scores and plays with high energy. Start him.

  • Mark

    It’s pretty amazing when you look at the level of coaching in the Big Ten. The following coaches have taken teams to the Final Four, although not necessarily their current team – Matta, Belein, Izzo, Crean, Ryan, and Smith. So even if you have an excellent coach you must be just as good in the other parts of the program: facilities, recruiting, fan base, student fan support, academic services, conditioning, and support from the school’s administration. And if you have all those things you could still be in the lower half of the Big Ten (twelve, soon to be fourteen). Tough spot for coaches, but great for us spectators.

  • Its hard to win at home, when it is also THEIR home game.

  • Kevin Coble left the Sendai 88ers. He played in several games in early January but now he’s on the ‘left’ list, here: http://www.asia-basket.com/team.asp?Cntry=Japan&Team=7203&Page=1 Anyone have any KC news?