Frustration mounting as NU free falls

Northwestern's struggles continued on as it was pummeled by No. 19 Wisconsin on Wednesday. With that, the players' frustration is mounting.

As the final seconds of a 69-41 loss to Wisconsin, the five Northwestern starters sat on the bench. All they could do was hang their heads.

With the loss, Northwestern falls to 13-14 on the campaign. One year ago, it held a legitimate shot at making the NCAA Tournament. Injuries and bad fortunes have hampered the Wildcats this year, and the depleted team is showing what little it has left.

After a brief cool-down period, Dave Sobolewski joined the media. The point guard became one of Northwestern's emotional leaders during the Wildcats' up-and-down 2012 season. Now, his sentiments are evident.

When asked if there were any positives to take from the game, Sobolewski huffed a deep breath then pointed to his senior teammate, Reggie Hearn.

"We can't use that as an excuse," Sobolewski later said, when asked how Northwestern's injuries have debilitated the team.

Shortly afterward, Sobolewski addressed the Wildcats' scoring issues. After attempting to offer a detailed explanation, the frustration came out.

"We just have to find a way," said Sobolewski, cutting off his own answer.

Sobolewski isn't alone in his frustration; it's felt throughout the locker room. But his true feelings are being revealed.

Before the season started, it was hard to forecast such struggles. This was billed as the year in which Northwestern could break through. Instead, a worn-out team stumbles to the bitter end.

The Wildcats have masked their emotions with optimism. Each time they've been positioned in front of a microphone, they attempt to muster up hope. It happened again after Wednesday's loss.

"It's obviously tough, what we're going through now," explained Reggie Hearn. "But there's no time to be tired, to be down. We have to keep pushing through."

To the senior guard's credit, he hasn't quit. None of the Wildcats have—even as their season continues to become a free fall. Hearn tried his best to carry the burden against the Badgers, but struggled once again, posting a 4-for-14 mark from the field.

Coach Bill Carmody sensed his Wildcats' anguish after another dismal performance.

"I hope they're a little frustrated," Carmody said. "It's not necessarily a bad thing. I would just say, guys are mad, and I'm glad."

As NU's downward spiral continued on—with a fourth consecutive loss on Wednesday—the hopes of a postseason appearance have diminished. Such a reward is highly unlikely. Sobolewski explained what keeps him fighting through each game.

"The motivation is for [the seniors] to leave on a good note," he stated.

The Wildcats will be playing for pride over their next four games. When it's time for the Big Ten Tournament, they'll conjure up hopes of a miraculous run to the conference championship. But that's just unrealistic.

Such misfortunes weren't supposed to strike Northwestern, but they've dramatically changed the tone of a once-promising season. The team is frustrated, but there's nothing it can do.

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers for Big Red Report, and currently covers the Northwestern Wildcats. He resides on Chicago's north side.
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