Breakin’ It Down: Northwestern Loses A Tough One To Stanford

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Well that one hurt a bit. Not only on the scoreboard but perhaps on the injury list for the Northwestern Wildcats. Senior leader Reggie Hearn appeared to badly twist his ankle early in the 2nd half and wasn’t available for the rest of the game. That was a big reason Northwestern’s offense struggled in crunch time however this by no means is a bad loss. The Stanford Cardinal are a good team that will win plenty of games in their league and should be a factor come “Selection Sunday”. However, when you trail by 18 points in the 1st half you don’t deserve to win. You’ve got to play a full 40 minutes. Let’s break it down.

Major props to Alex Olah. The plodding 7 footer showed great touch around the rim and fought well inside against one of the strongest players in college basketball in Dwight Powell. He still needs to work on his free throw shooting though. It must improve quickly otherwise the “Hack-A-Shaq” will come back into play. The stroke looks nice so this shouldnt’ be a mechanical issue.

Kudos are also in order for Alex Marcotullio. He’s not extremely talented but he knows his game. He was active at the top of the 1-3-1 zone which helped Northwestern get back into the game. Additionally, he chipped in on the offensive end by attacking the basket. He isn’t afraid to take the big shot either.

Finally, a tip of the cap to Tre Demps. The freshman air balled his first two shots but kept on shooting. While he did miss a late floater that could have tied the game for Northwestern, he hit a big three with  around 2 minutes remaining and showed the willingness to isolate late in the shot clock.

I have to ask what was up with Dave Sobolewski? Chasson Randle‘s quickness was surely a problem but he didn’t seem willing to take a shot late in the game. He’s too important to this offense to hesitate.

Also, Jared Swopshire needs to realize he can’t become a standstill three point shooter. Without Crawford, the Wildcats have few players that can create their own. While he isn’t your prototypical slashing small forward, his versatility can be used much more wisely. Work the elbow jumper and then get to the free throw line.

Overall, Northwestern is going to live and die by their 1-3-1 defense again this year. However, unlike year’s past, this team should be better on the glass if the early season sample holds true. Give Bill Carmody credit for going to it earlier in this one. Of course, when you are getting completely hammered in your man from the tip, it isn’t really that difficult a call.

Going forward, the health of Hearn is paramount. This team is already without JerShon Cobb and now Drew Crawford. That’s a really tough for any program but especially for a team trying to break through to their first ever NCAA tournament. While others like Demps and Olah have shown they can step up, the Wildcats can’t afford another primary guy going down. I’d rest Hearn against the Brown Bears and get him ready for the killer start of the Big Ten slate.

The Wildcats start with the number two Michigan Wolverines at home and the Minnesota Golden Gophers on the road. Getting a split is extremely important. Too many years Northwestern has gotten buried in the early part of the conference schedule and just can’t dig themselves out.

Fans shouldn’t have huge expectations given the current roster situation. However, giving up on the season already is ridiculous. This isn’t the Kevin O’Neill era Wildcats. The depth is there to be plenty competitive. Let’s see Carmody earn his handsome check.

Like my article? Hate it? Let me know on Twitter (@tmichaelcronin). I look forward to your thoughts.

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