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.