Thursday, February 12, 2009

Evanston, We Have a Problem: Illini win State Title by 1 point

You know the scene in Apollo 13 when the oxygen tank ruptures and Jim Lovell says, “We just lost the moon” to his crew? Well, tonight Northwestern’s O2 tank ruptured and they just lost the NCAA Tournament. Now, they need to work a near miracle and recover like Lovell, Swigert, and Haise, in order to at least survive long enough to circle around the moon and make it back to Earth, in other words, make the NIT. If NU can’t find a way to repair their busted-up ship, they will float endlessly off into eternity, in other words, stay home in March. Can it be done? Sure, but it will take a monumental effort to recover from this disaster and right the ship. But, as was the case for flight director Gene Kranz, for coach Bill Carmody, “Failure is not an option.” Otherwise, I have to admit, his future at Northwestern will be very much in doubt.

So how did the Wildcats blow this game? Well, they were completely abysmal at handling Illinois’s trap in the last four minutes. In those four minutes, the Wildcats were leaderless. Craig Moore who has led NU the whole year made perhaps the worst play of the night when he got trapped in the corner and threw a pass to the center of the court I wouldn’t want to see a junior high player throw to start the Illinois run. This was way worse than the loss to Purdue. Every basketball player from small fry to the NBA knows that you can’t stop in the corner against a team that is trapping because they will use the sideline as a third defender. Every basketball player except those who play at Northwestern that is. The Wildcats repeatedly just stopped and let Illinois trap them and force turnovers. The worst part, players like Moore who should know better were just as responsible for these woeful decisions as freshmen like Luka Mirkovic. If the Wildcats could have broken the press NU would have had easy layups thanks to how aggressive the Illini were. Now, every team is going to try and trap Northwestern and based on what was seen tonight, they’ll probably be very successful. The Wildcats need to work on handling traps, right now! I might seem harsh, but blowing a double-digit lead with less than four minutes left is the basketball equivalent of blowing a 38-3 lead in football. This loss is totally unacceptable, it would be unacceptable for a junior high team. As I said, “Evanston we have a problem.” And if this problem isn’t corrected, well, let’s hope we don’t crash and burn.

Now, to end on a positive, the student sections tonight were awesome. Unfortunately, if history repeats itself a great many of those students won’t come back Sunday. Of course, based on the last four minutes, I don’t really blame them. Those of us who choose to watch this team year in and year out might be certifiable. I tell myself it’ll mean more to us when the ‘Cats finally make the NCAA tournament, before tonight I thought I saw that day on the horizon. Now, I just don’t know. I just don't know.


John said...

Ugh what a gut-wrenching loss. The fans (and Mirkovic) were great (for the most part). I've got a panorama of the student section I'm going to put together and post on Chicago College Basketball tomorrow. I just with they could've seen a win.

Closso said...

How many days till football season?

Ryan said...

@Closso...204 days till Mike Kafka leads the 'Cats against Miami.

SmokeOnTheWater said...

I posted similar thoughts at LTP, but as an undergrad, I can say that this will have long-term effects in supressing student turnout. After the 38-3 debacle in 06, student turnout was never the same until this year against Michigan St in football. I have little doubt that this game will suppress turnout for the remainder of the year, at least.

Student turnout this year has been great because of a highly energized freshman class. This class doesn't know about last year's dark days (let alone our decades of futility). NU students are busy, high-achieving, and self-motivated enough to expect winning. When they are confronted with a team that seems to have an aversion to sustained success, it disengages the students.
I really hope I'm wrong, but I'd expect Sunday's turnout to look a lot like the student sections of 06 and 07.

dwr536 said...

absolutely pathetic. My friends in Minnesota texted me with about a minute left saying that if we lost this game our basketball team is a joke. Sad thing is I knew it was coming and so did all the students. Everyone was around me saying Here we go again. I have a friend at Loyola who attended the game as a Illini fan and she said the same thing. Everyone around was saying this is the part where we lose.

Apparently up six with a minute to go isnt "Winning time". What a joke of a team. We could and should have so many more wins in our record.

If thats how all the students felt I have to imagine that having been down this road many times the players felt the same way. It sure looked like it to me. Playing not to lose instead of to win. I cant believe our Kryptonite was a damn full court press. I mean we broke the press enough times but it still just stopped us dead in our tracks.

I was working the game as an usher so I had to stick around to pick up garbage afterwards. The Illinois faithful didnt leave for what seemed like hours. They stood there singing and cheering like they just beat the No. 1 team in the nation. Then all their student fans went down into the tunnel and greeted each Illinois player as they came out of the locker room with loud cheers of their name. It was absolutely the single most disgusting thing Ive seen in Northwestern sports. Ive dealt with asshole Michigan fans and OSU fans I wanted to punch in the face but seeing them have that sort of moment in our gym in a game we essentially dominated makes me just sick.

Im going to meet P Fitz at halftime on Sunday to accept a check for winning the Greek Challenge during football season. Otherwise there is almost no way I could go back to Welsh Ryan after this debacle. Disgusting.