Wildcats falter in first test

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge often provides its participants with an early test, and such was the case for Northwestern. However, the results weren't pretty, as Maryland dominated the young Wildcats on their home court, winning 77-57.

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon is no stranger to the Princeton offense. His famillarity with the complex system stems from his days leading Jacksonville State.

In the practices prior to the Terrapins' ACC/Big Ten Challenge meeting with Northwestern, Turgeon had his team prepared to counter the attack, and it paid dividends. Maryland dominated the Wildcats at Welsh-Ryan Arena, earning a 77-57 victory.

"We have to be able to play with these guys, especially at home," offered head coach Bill Carmody after the loss. "We'll come back out and work hard and get this thing corrected."

The Wildcats were out of sync on offense, posting a dismal 34 percent from the field. Too often, they were forced into uncomfortable shots. Go-to scorer Drew Crawford looked to pace his team, but endured a horrid night. He posted 4-of-14 from the field and just 10 points.

"He's definitely pressing," Carmody said of Crawford. "He's a good player, he'll break out of it. Right now, he's definitely pressing."

The most alarming statistic: Maryland—led by likely NBA lottery pick Alex Len—outrebounded Northwestern 47-19.

"It was just a horrible effort on the boards by the whole squad," point guard Dave Sobolewski remarked.

The contest started as a slugfest, with both teams trading leads seven times. Maryland's success came on the boards while Northwestern forced its opponent into turnover troubles. The second half was another story.

Maryland turned its slim lead into a double-digit margin just five minutes into the half. NU's offense remained out of rhythm, and failed to find form as its hole grew deeper.

"We've been struggling a little bit trying to get a pulse or tempo of the game," said Carmody. "I thought if we ran through stuff, we could get some easy baskets. I thought we were a little too quick on the trigger."

The second stanza was controlled by Maryland, shooting 66.7 percent and scoring 49 points. It became a laugher for Northwestern on its home court.

"They really stuck it to us in the second half," added Carmody.

The ACC/Big Ten challenge often serves as an early measuring stick for its participants, and that proved to be true for a young Northwestern team in its first test. The Wildcats failed it miserably, but must benefit from the lessons gained.

"We use every game as learning tool," said Reggie Hearn, who led NU with 19 points. "We lost, we got exposed in the second half. We'll work on correcting those problems."

While the final score won't sit pretty on Northwestern's season résumé, the team is dedicated to moving forward.

"It was a November game against an ACC team," said Sobolewski, offering perspective. "It wasn't the end of the season. We've got a lot of work for sure. If anything, this will make us hungrier in practice."

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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