Pressure Mounts for Winless Wildcats

Northwestern is still searching for a conference win, and they bring their desperate act to the Barn Wednesday night. Despite their difficulties, the Wildcats are showing signs of improvement.

As Northwestern finds itself in the Big Ten basement again — the only team without a league win — some people are wondering.

As Bill Carmody prepares to wrap up his eighth season in Evanston without a postseason berth, some people are wondering.

With Northwestern in the process of hiring an athletic director to replace the departed Mark Murphy, some people are wondering if all of these factors could lead to the end of Carmody's reign with the Wildcats.

But then Northwestern delivers a performance like Sunday's showing at No. 11 Indiana and it seems evident that the Wildcats are on the right track.

Despite enduring its usual rebounding difficulties against the Hoosiers — particularly against center D.J. White — Northwestern hung with Indiana almost all the way in one of the Big Ten's toughest road environments. The Wildcats were within two points at the 12-minute timeout before the Hoosiers outlasted them for a 75-63 triumph.

More importantly, the Wildcats did their best work with a six-man core that consisted of two freshmen, two sophomores and two juniors. Sophomore guard Jeremy Nash was the biggest revelation with a career-high 12 points off the bench.

NOTES

  • Once a year, it seems, Northwestern's rebounding problems become so acute that one man outrebounds the entire team. Indiana center D.J. White nearly became this year's guy during NU's 75-63 loss at Indiana on Sunday.

    White matched the Wildcats rebound for rebound until the final minutes when the Wildcats "pulled away" for a 15-13 triumph over White. Altogether, however, Indiana outrebounded NU by a 36-15 margin as the Hoosiers lived on the offensive glass.

    "They missed 14 shots in the first half and got 10 of them back," said NU coach Bill Carmody.

  • When Kevin Coble poured in a game-high 29 points against Texas-Pan American on Jan. 30, he became the first Wildcat since Evan Eschmeyer to have two 29-plus point efforts in the same season. Eschmeyer accomplished the feat in 1998-99 en route to earning second-team all-American honors.

  • Sophomore swingman Jeff Ryan injured his left wrist in the first half Sunday at Indiana when he went down hard as he was fouled on a drive to the basket. This comes just a few weeks after Ryan was set back by a strained abdominal muscle. Northwestern didn't think Ryan broke his wrist, but conducted X-rays just to make sure.

  • Sophomore guard Jeremy Nash missed most of the non-conference slate with a bad back, but he's been making up for lost time. Nash gained Bill Carmody's confidence with active play at the top of NU's zone, then amplified it with a career-high 12 points against Indiana. Nash entered the game with just 19 points this season.

  • Junior guard Craig Moore remains on-pace to become the school's all-time leader in 3-pointers. Moore's 3 3-pointers against Indiana gave him 171 for his career. That's good for fourth on the school's list, but just 41 behind leader Vedran Vukusic.

    Just as interesting, Moore made a season-high 4 2-point baskets against Indiana. Moore entered the game with just 23 2-pointers in 18 games.

    IN FOCUS: With Northwestern finding its shooting eye at Indiana, the Wildcats could earn their Big Ten breakthrough against Minnesota. Of course, NU shot great on the Gophers' home floor for a while and then fell apart because it couldn't hang on the defensive end. The Wildcats need to find a way to keep Minnesota big men Spencer Tollackson and Dan Coleman from going wild in the post.

    PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters — F Kevin Coble, F Jeff Ryan, G Michael Thompson, G Sterling Williams, G Craig Moore. Key Subs — F Nikola Baran, G Jason Okrzesik, G Jeremy Nash.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was just good to see them playing hard. I told them during one of the timeouts, ‘You look like you're surprised that this stuff works. It works. But you have to do it hard, then it's going to work and against pretty good players.' " — Northwestern coach Bill Carmody on WGN 720-AM after the Wildcats hung with No. 11 Indiana before losing 75-63 on Sunday.

    GAME REVIEW:

    Illinois 70, Northwestern 37

    Northwestern 68, Texas-Pan American 59

    Indiana 75, Northwestern 63

    GAME PREVIEW:

    Vs. Minnesota, Wednesday, Feb. 6

    At Michigan State, Saturday, Feb. 9

    Vs. Ohio State, Wednesday, Feb. 13



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