Friday, March 12, 2010

Wildcats Lose Heads and Game in Second Half 69-61

Northwestern’s intelligent student athletes sure played stupid in the second half this evening. In a game which NU should have won easily, a technical foul on Luka Mirkovic, two dumb shots by Davide Curletti, a series of stupid fouls on virtually every player on the court which allowed Purdue 38 free throws, a dumb charge on Michael Thompson for his 5th personal, a boatload of turnovers, and the dumbest foul I have ever seen on a Chris Kramer layup after NU cut the lead to 1 point, combined to finish off the Wildcats effort at making history. This game is the reason those of us who follow this team year after year must be clinically insane. We inevitably get the same type of depressing results season after season. I tell myself suffering through all these depressing results will make NU’s eventual bid to the NCAA Tournament all the more meaningful for those of us who have been crushed by so many depressing losses. However, I have to admit that say that belief in some sort of theoretical future tournament bid doesn’t do a lot to ease our pain today. Northwestern should be playing tomorrow, but their defensive effort and lack of composure simply didn’t meet the magnitude of the game.

Some people will say Northwestern played well to stay close, but to be honest other than making 5-of-5 early threes, they really did not. If Northwestern had played well they would have had the game won at halftime. Yes, NU built an 11 point lead early, but if they hadn’t turned the ball over on six early possessions they might have realistically built a 20-point lead and finished off Purdue before the game even started.

Drew Crawford finally regained some of his Big Ten Freshman of the Year form as he scored 15 points and grabbed (by my unofficial count) 10 rebounds. However, he also committed a number of those early turnovers. Besides Crawford, the Wildcats also got good efforts from Michael Thompson and John Shurna. Thompson scored 12 points and Shurna scored 16 and got 6 rebounds. I have to say, though, I think both should have been more assertive on offense in the second half. No reason exists for Alex Marcotullio and Davide Curletti to force up threes. NU’s star players need to demand the ball in such clutch situations.

NU’s defense was fairly okay, which is good for Northwestern, but E’Twaun Moore did get 26 points. This is ridiculous. Without Robbie Hummel he is Purdue’s only shooting option. He also has regularly exploded on NU, including a career high 28 points, it is absolutely unacceptable for him to get the shots he got today. This is the type of game which proves my theory NU needs to learn to play man-to-man. The 1-3-1 got beat over the top and in the matchup NU often ended up with awful matchups thanks to their constant switching. I’d go into this more, but I’d just be repeating points from games earlier this season. I guess what has me really upset is that NU hasn’t been able to correct these problems, yet they’ve existed since early February. Just like NU’s players needed to be better and keep their composure under pressure, Bill Carmody and his coaches need to be better. They shouldn’t have allowed these same problems for some long. If Bill Carmody truly is a smart coach (and I do think he is), he’ll swallow his pride and issues with loyalty, in order to find an assistant coach somewhere who is familiar with how to teach defense. Next year would also be the year to do because Carmody will have enough veterans that the Princeton Offense should be pretty well mastered early on.

NU now heads back to Evanston at 20-13. They’ll likely get an NIT invite, though, I think it’s fair to debate if they deserve such an opportunity. After all, NU would likely be a 7 or 8-seed and therefore play on the road where they are 2-8. In terms of advancing, NU would be much better off in the CBI or CIT. The CIT claims to focus on mid-majors, but I think Northwestern fits their criteria well and would almost certainly play at home. Also, the CIT has started handing out bids and I wouldn't mind knowing NU's tournament future sooner than late Sunday evening. Some will say the NIT is more prestigious so even a bottom seed in it is better, but personally I enjoy winning and after the NCAA Tournament it doesn’t matter if you’re the 66th best team or the 81st best team or whatever. What matters is if you win and get more games. NU also would probably have a home game in the CBI which would increase their chance to advance. Bottom line, outside of the NCAA Tournament, the important thing is to play games, so I won’t feel too bad if NU is passed over by the NIT and ends up in one of the other tournaments. We will see exactly what happens on Sunday night if not before.


johnrocks_32 said...

I understand that Northwestern definatly should have won this game, but how awful of luck is it that we get the game with Curtis SHaw in it. I mean c'mon. Not just him but his entire crew was just horrible. Definatly bad timing that this is the game he refs.

macarthur31 said...

I'll counter that Curletti's 3's were "horrible" -- the bottom line was Purdue wasn't giving any easy looks inside, and Curletti has hit the clutch three this year (Notre Dame for example). I'm fine with him taking that shot, as it shows that he's got confidence and he wants to make a play.

Of course, I'd have been fine with Shurna getting the ball more down the stretch. However with his 5 TOs, it was evident that he was certainly affected by having Kramer cover him all game.

Nevertheless, this was a very winnable game. Having Luka get into foul trouble early hurt us in that we couldn't take Johnson out of the game by going inside. We needed to get Moore or Johnson out of the game, and we couldn't do it -- ultimately those guys did us in.

Above all else, I thought our defense was better compared to how we went down the stretch. At least we can hang our hat that the guys rallied on that end, and bodes well for next year.

Ryan said...

Looking at the tape, I think Curletti's first three was probably fine to take. The second came early in the shot clock and was from about 24 feet. As far as Shaw, he stinks as an offical and always looks to call T's, but I'm not sure his call on Luka was wrong.

macarthur31 said...

The thing with Luka -- I think it's a bit of a known secret that he walks that fine line between dirty and legal. For example, Shon Morris pointed out that he got away with a chickenwing on his post drive on Johnson. I've seen almost every game this year on BTN, or, as well as 2 in person, and in my mind that's been Luka's standard move is to use that chickenwing. I've also seen him grab jersey, as well as other little things to get an edge. I love that he plays for us, and I want him to do well -- but I fear that having a tech like that called in a game may be one of those things that tags him as a "dirty player", and then gives him a bias from refs here on out.

Overall - Purdue is going to play physical, and it's up to the refs to call the game, and I believe that the refs adjust to Purdue than vice versa. I've never seen Juice hit the deck so many times in a game -- that's not because he was clumsy.

Either way, I still think we had enough talent and poise to win it. That's what still bums me out the day after.