Northwestern might have a few players with the flu, but unless the entire team and the coaching staff have some sort of illness, this game has to go down as the most disappointing loss of the year. Northwestern just played a head-scratching game both on the court and on the sidelines. Kevin Coble was sick so it is understandable perhaps why he never got going, but Craig Moore couldn’t get going either and then he disappeared to the bench for the second half. With Moore and Coble on the bench the Wildcats were forced to turn to a lineup which featured Jeff Ryan, Sterling Williams, and Jeremy Nash at the same time. Obviously, that isn’t going to be a strong offensive lineup, but what was very frustrating from Northwestern’s perspective was this lineup didn’t play great defense or rebound either. Jeff Ryan let Minnesota’s guards get around him multiple times which lead to easy layups. Williams and Nash each committed two turnovers and despite their athletic skill only pulled down a total of three rebounds. With those three guys in the game, the advantage NU should have is athleticism, but that advantage was not apparent on Sunday night.
Obviously, the strangest fact of the above situation was Craig Moore disappearing to the bench early in the second half. He went to the bench right after NU botched up an inbounds play, but thanks to Tim McCormack chatting about his Oscar picks we couldn’t tell what exactly happened. Whatever it was, it seemed the impetus for Moore’s permanent trip to the pine.
Northwestern’s center position also probably deserves mention when recapping this game. Kyle Rowley played the best of NU’s quadrangle of big men. He scored 7 points and got 3 rebounds. In the second half Rowley made some nice quick moves, however, in the first half when the game was still somewhat close, Rowley reverted to the form where it takes a sun dial to time his moves. When he makes moves quick, like in the second half of the OSU game, Rowley looks like a serious Big Ten big man. At other times, though, Rowley looks like he is over thinking everything. Still, he was by far NU’s best center today. Luka Mirkovic went to the bench early with fouls and may have still been overcoming his recent illness. Davide Curletti still looks a little lost, in one sequence he entered the game and failed to move his feet at all on defense which promptly allowed Colton Iverson to drive right around him for an easy basket, then on the other end of the court Jeremy Nash drove the lane and threw a nice pass to Curletti, except Curletti was shocked by the ball’s appearance and he couldn’t handle the pass. Bottom line, it looks like Curletti still isn’t ready for Big Ten play. Ivan Peljusic got what is becoming rare action in this game and didn’t play well either. He missed two free throws and overall also looked a little off. Still, I think he looked better than Curletti. However, I have to assume his practice performance doesn’t matchup. Otherwise, I assume he’d get the 5-10 minutes a game Curletti seems to now be getting.
Finally, it is now critical NU win at Indiana on Wednesday if they want to make sure they get in the NIT. Road games at Ohio State and Purdue will be much tougher to win than the one at Indiana. With a 14-11 record, NU probably needs at least 17 overall wins to assure an NIT bid. They probably need 16 overall wins to assure a postseason bid. They have a great chance to win at home against Iowa and the Big Ten Tournament opener is always a toss up, but at Indiana is the only road game remaining that they should win.