No time left? Iowa buries Northwestern early, run comes too late
Late in Thursday’s Big Ten Tournament first round game, Bill Carmody was watching his team come alive. Three-pointers were beginning to fall and a once-16-point lead was cut in half. Over and over again, NU would get itself within single digits only to see Iowa make a 3-pointer and a quick run to pull away yet again.
Carmody needed in some way to talk to his team, to calm them down and make an adjustment. He quickly put his hand together in the unmistakable “T” for timeout, but quickly retracted before an official could see it. Carmody had run out of timeout. His team had run out of time.
A slow and somewhat lifeless start doomed Northwestern, putting the team in a hole too deep to climb out of. When it was time to make that long journey out of the hole the Wildcats had dug themselves, the will and effort were there. The defensive execution was not always there. And eventually time was against the Wildcats.
Time seemed to be working against Bill Carmody all night. He called four of his five timeouts in the first half and then spent his final timeout less than a minute into the second half. It was the kind of desperation his team needed for much of the first 20 minutes of the game. A strong second half was not going to do it with this team. Iowa’s onslaught proved too much and held on for a 73-59 victory at the United Center, ending Northwestern’s season without a postseason appearance for the first time in five years.
Above are statistics known as the Four Factors and are regarded as indicative contributors to wins and losses. Please see the end of this post for an explanation.
The pain started early as Iowa went on an 11-0 run to open the game and Northwestern struggled to get rebounds or make shots. Turnovers, bad shots and put backs plagued this early part of the game and the Wildcats found themselves down by double digits very fast.
The team seemed lifeless. Players were not moving within the Princeton Offense, and that kind of stagnation kills this team without a player who can create shots for himself or others. Iowa sensed this trepidation and aggressively trapped and blitzed the ballhandler coming off of any picks. Northwestern struggled to adjust and was caught on its back foot very early.
The offense lacked rhythm and Iowa took advantage. It seemed the Hawkeyes could break down the Cats’ defense at any time and if they could not, they would get the offensive rebound more often than not.
Things settled down of course. Northwestern fought back. Some shots started to fall, the team stopped turning the ball over. The Wildcats climbed back into the game.
Defensively, Northwestern dared Iowa to make shots. The Wildcats packed the paint with a 2-3 zone and prevented the Hawkeyes from getting the ball in the middle and doubled the ball when it got sent down to the post. Northwestern was hoping Iowa would go cold from beyond the arc.
They did long enough for the Wildcats to get the game to single digits. Iowa called a timeout and found its shooting stroke again. The lead hovered between 12 and nine the rest of the game. All that was left was to count the seconds off the clock. A frustrating way to end a frustrating season.
Reggie Hearn had 19 points and 10 rebound sin his final game for the Wildcats, putting in a strong final effort. Alex Olah had 12 point sand seven rebounds in one of his best games of the season. He was pushed around a bit too much in the first half, but re-established himself in the post and was very effective in pick and rolls and backdoor cuts in the second half. A good improvement for the freshman center.
However, Dave Sobolewski struggled shooting 1 for 6 from the field.
Surprisingly, Northwestern ended up with a better field goal percentage than Iowa. But the Hawkeyes’ 16 offensive rebounds and 32 free throw attempts gave them so many more opportunities to score.
With a margin for error so small, as it has been since Jared Swopshire was injured in Iowa City, Northwestern could not afford to come out so flat. The Wildcats could not afford to play catch-up the entire game.
Time will only tell now where this program goes as Jim Phillips has a decision to make on Bill Carmody’s future. Only he may know whether time has truly run out.
Offensive Rating measures points scored per 100 possessions.
Effective field goal percentage measures field goal percentage taking into account the added value of a 3-point shot.
Offensive rebound percentage measures the percentage of offensive rebounds over total rebounds.
Turnover percentage estimates what percentage of a team’s possessions end in a turnover.
Free throw rate measures the rate of free throw attempts over field goal attempts.