Thursday, January 15, 2009

Missed Free Throws Doom 'Cats, Purdue wins 63-61

A lot of reasons can be highlighted for Northwestern's 63-61 loss to Purdue Thursday night. What I want to do is take this opportunity to breakdown the reasons for this devastating loss. I think the biggest reason was missed free throws in second half. Michael Thompson, Jeff Ryan, Jeremy Nash, Kevin Coble, and Craig Moore all only made one of two free throws. Overall, Northwestern made only 11-of-18 free throws in the second half. That compares poorly to Purdue’s 14-of-16. It is nearly impossible to come back on a team that makes free throws, but Northwestern is not that team and missed free throws continue to doom this squad. Missed layup are also a problem, but I have noticed as I watch college basketball closely that Northwestern is hardly the only team to miss layups. The problem is that NU gets so many fewer shots each miss hurts twice as much as misses from other teams do.

Those missed free throws are a symptom of another huge problem for Northwestern—lack of a killer instinct. Northwestern is 8-6 overall this season and in three of those losses Northwestern has blown a double-digit lead. Northwestern is a team that doesn’t know how to win. When you have a team on the ropes you need to finish them off. Northwestern has shown a total inability to do this against good opponents. One commentator said Purdue simply wanted the game more than NU. I heard the same about Butler and Penn State, but I don’t really buy it. How can NU not want to win as much as the other team? That makes no sense. Who the hell shows up to play sports and doesn’t want to win? If you don’t want to win it’s time to turn in the uniform. The problem is NU simply doesn’t know how to finish. People wondered about NU’s toughness after the loss to Wisconsin, honestly I think Northwestern’s players are as tough as they can be physically. Unfortunately, other team’s players are physically so much stronger and more athletic they make NU’s smaller guys look weak. One area where I think NU could match up in toughness, but doesn’t, is mental toughness. NU seems to fold in on themselves whenever they get a big lead. It’s as if you can see them say, “Oh crap, we’re going to win.” Some say this is on Coach Carmody, but from my experience mental toughness is a do it yourself job. A coach can help, but he can’t pour mental toughness into somebody’s head.

Maybe part of the problem relates to the crowd in Welsh-Ryan Arena. It has to beat you down a little mentally when you play a home game and 50% or more of the crowd is pulling for the other side. I feel beat down and I’m just a fan. I have several friends from Purdue and usually get along with their fans, but today I was surrounded by the most obnoxious Purdue fans I’ve ever meet. Of course, that’s a major digression as this isn’t about me. The point is that coming into your gym and seeing ton of fans wearing the opposing team’s color has to get you down a bit. It especially hurts, I believe, on days like today when the student attendance isn’t great.

I guess the last reason for the loss is the fact Purdue’s defense in the second half was much more intense than NU’s. Maybe this relates to the “they wanted it more” idea, but I’m not sure I buy that. I wonder instead if it relates to a conditioning issue. It seemed like Ryan, Williams, and Nash were all over for the game’s first 30 minutes but didn’t make as many tips and deflections late. Is it possible they were exhausted? Maybe. Although, I do have to give Purdue credit for passing the ball better in the second half. It’s hard to rotate when a team makes crisp passes and Purdue did so.

Tomorrow: Friday Flashback brings us an in person account from NU’s December 21, 2006 win over Utah. This should hopefully make us all feel better as we remember the good times.


Lunker 35 said...


I know you don't want to pin this on him, but either we recruited "soft" players or his motivational skills are awful. He was out coached down the stretch and I've had more than enough of him. This team is lacking something that other teams have and it has to be blamed on the coach. I don't know if I want to pay for another year to watch him kicking and fidgeting on the sidelines.

LansingCat said...

The difference in this game was the officiating!

1. Intentional foul on Ryan - No - that is a hard foul - NU got jobed.

2. MT's foul on the three point shot - actually a good call (that could have been a non-call) but it pails in comparison to . . .

3. The no call when Craig Moore got tackled while shooting a three.

4. The last call - should clearly have been a no call.

5. The no-call when Moore ran around a screen to cover a three point shot and the PU player reached out and took Craig down with his forarms away from his body.

I would like to put together these clips and post them on you-tube to illustrate just what really one-sided officiating looks like.

Ryan said...

The last call was bad. You don't call that foul at home in the last five seconds. You just don't, but that guy did. Would NU have won in OT? Maybe not, but we should have at least gone there.

knickelbein5 said...

It's time. Carmody must go.

buckyor said...

I don't know that there's any advantage arising out of firing Carmody right now, but it's clear he's been here several years too long and needs to be replaced. When you get right down to it, this program has spent the last seven years learning how to lose basketball games. Because these kids are all pretty bright, they are quick learners and have internalized that lesson well.

NU lost a real opportunity last offseason when they could have gone after either Mike Montgomery (who currently has Cal at 15-2 and at the top of the PAC 10) or Craig Robinson (who is only 6-9, with one win in conference- but think of the recruiting advantage NU would have in Chicago with that guy). We bought ourselves another year of Carmody, meaning another year in (or near, thanks to the IU meltdown, which won't last forever) the conference cellar.

My biggest fear with the program is that we will win several (up to 4) conference games, that the people in charge will see this as a sign of improvement, and will decide to retain Carmody once again. "Give him a chance with these young players he's brought in" will be the refrain. He's had more than a chance- seven years- to both bring in the right players and to coach those players to succeed. Yet he's failed in one or both of these opportunities.

It's long past time for a change. I just don't see any advantage to doing it much before the season is over.