27 January 2012

MINNESOTA 75 Northwestern 52 (F)

Northwestern (12-7, 2-5) got housed at The Barn.  When the gates opened NU was not ready to run, digging itself a hole so deep with an 0-fer 15 shooting slump that the game essentially over by halftime.  Aside from Alex Marcotullio, who had one of his best games of the year, this was a collective team stinker of a game.

The team shot a forgettable 33% from the field, 31% from beyond the arc and 40% from the charity stripe.  NU once again got crushed on the boards 35-20, but we can't get too bent out of shape about it since this kind of imbalance is a natural outcome when your team lays up a ton of bricks and the opponent shoots lights out (the Gophers shot 58% from the field).  Drew Crawford shot 2-10, had 3 rebounds, no assists and 2 turnovers in 30 minutes of play.  Shurna chucked his way to 21 points but took 21 shots to do so.  Sobolewski went 0-5, and worse yet had just one assist to three turnovers.  Yuck.

This was NU's worst loss of the season with potentially crippling effects on its bid to make the NCAAs.  NU hadn't looked this bad in a game since a fangless Central Connecticut squad came to Evanston in mid-December and nearly won a game against a listless NU squad. 

There has been some talk that tired legs were the reason for NU's poor results at Minnyhaha.  There is probably some truth to that given NU's inexplicably miserable free throw shooting efforts (8-20 as a team including Shurna 2-8 and Crawford 1-4).  The fact of the matter is that Johnny S and Drew C have logged way too many minutes this season, and we may be seeing the fallout from this substitution pattern or lack thereof.  If we were in Coach Carmody's shoes we'd probably do the same thing since Shurna and Crawford are indispensable and injuries have decimated the team's depth.  It is what it is.

We find the tired legs explanation to be overblown.  Teams can and do have bad shooting nights regadless of any fatigue effects.  We are confident that the Minnesota game was just one of those nights and expect NU to show no hangover effects in tomorrow's game against Purdue (14-7, 4-4).   A week off to rest up and get angry about their effort in M-polis doesn't hurt the cause.

Despite a 2-5 record the NCAAs watch is still on.  As we wrote before conference play began NU needs to finish 3-3 during this second trimester of the conference season.  Home games against Purdue, Nebraska, and Iowa look to be the most likely games to collect those three wins, but the two away games at Illinois or Purdue also provide a good opportunity to make up for lost ground if NU slips up in any of these games at the Welsh.