First of all let’s start and the end. Drew Crawford was simply far too soft when taking the last shot. Tossing up a fadeaway lob isn’t going to work when a 7-1 shot blocker is in the middle of the court.
The game really was lost though when NU went through a 3-for-20 shooting stretch in the second half. Illinois played somewhat better defense than they did in the first half, but really I thought Northwestern just missed a lot of shots they were capable of making. At times a few of the shots might have been somewhat forced from Crawford or Shurna, but they were trying to make plays at a time when NU needed baskets. In hindsight maybe they shouldn’t have forced as many shots, but you can’t know it’s going end up a one point game when you’re trailing by five or seven in the middle of the contest.
On the positive side Northwestern played really good defense all night. They had a few lapses on ball pressure, but overall I was impressed. I actually might say it was one of the best defensive games I’ve seen from a Bill Carmody team at Northwestern. It’s a shame it all went for nothing tonight, but let’s not forget that NU can’t shoot as badly as they did this evening all year. If the defense stays intense the ‘Cats will pull a couple upsets this season.
Another negative was the end of the first half. Not so much the fact that Illinois closed on a 5-0 run, though, that seemed to get them some momentum. But the real issue I have is that NU on its last possession just looked lost yet Bill Carmody didn’t call his timeout that doesn’t carry over. NU had all five TOs left, they were going to lose one going to half two anyway, they were lost on offense, but Carmody simply let John Shurna turn the ball over. Again, Carmody couldn’t have known it would be a one point game, but why not use the timeout? You lose it anyway.
That doesn’t seem like much, but I’m not sure what else to say. Oh year, free throw shooting was awful and that’s another area where one point might have been made up, but alas was not. A solid first half, a terrible second half, some poor decisions at really bad times in both and the result is a tough loss. Obviously, you have these games at times and you can overcome them if you hand someone else a tough loss along the way. The problem is that Northwestern hasn’t really shown the ability to hand those tough losses out over their history, but they sure can sustain them.
I guess one thought which should also be mentioned, though, I hate the idea it can be used as an excuse is that new rims went into Welsh-Ryan yesterday that many reported were unkind to shooters. I do think we saw a lot of shots go in and rim out today and it looked like Bill Carmody had something say on that matter a few times and even after the game when talking with AD Jim Phillips (okay, I don't what Carmody was saying, but he seemed upset). This can't be an excuse, but doesn't it seem odd to anyone else to make such a change in the middle of the year? I'd love to hear thoughts on this.
I’m hoping we’ll see NU come back in a big way a week from tonight at Michigan. If not NU still has 14 games in the Big Ten after that so all isn’t totally lost. Still, you can’t help but feel like it is after tonight and I can’t help but think the frustration level for NU fans after a loss to Michigan will be sky high. That’s understandable because at a certain point the years upon years of tough losses result take a toll. I thought it was a good NU crowd tonight even with the Illini fans inside Welsh-Ryan. I expect a very green Welsh-Ryan when Michigan State arrives on Jan. 14 and I can’t blame people. At some point we all just need to say enough is enough. Personally, I’m getting very close to saying that myself.