Young: Wildcats facing adversity

The past week for Northwestern consisted of two losses; one being a blowout from a talented Maryland team and the other an upset from UIC at Welsh-Ryan Arena. It's clear this young Wildcat team is facing adversity early in the season. Former Cat Jitim Young explains what the team must do.

If you are a current player, the ideal mindset needed after coming off an 0-2 week is keeping the locker room together, staying positive, and remaining focused on the goals set for this season.

If you are a fan, and watched last week's performance of Northwestern, you should be upset and disappointed with the effort displayed by the Wildcats.

The first taste of national attention against a storied program like Maryland was a statement game the Wildcats could have taken advantage of. Maryland came into Welsh-Ryan Arena and looked tentative early on during the game. Every media outlet was in Evanston, to observe this Northwestern team people have deemed as "tournament-bound team."

However, Maryland muscled the Wildcats and out-hustled them to every loose ball. Besides being out-worked, Northwestern shot a season-low 34 percent from the field and 24 percent from three-point range. By taking quick shots on a cold night, and not executing Coach Carmody's offense, their missed shots triggered many fast break opportunities, and open three-point looks for the Terrapins.

Freshman Alex Olah got his first true taste of what college basketball is like and the sort of competition he will face throughout his career. Alex Len, a 7-foot-1 sophomore from the Ukraine as well as an NBA lottery projection, dominated the paint and took the freshman to school.

Drew Crawford struggled versus Maryland, and in the post game interview, Coach Carmody questioned "leadership." Reggie Hearn was a bright spot in the ACC/Big Ten challenge, chipping in 19 points for the Wildcats. Dave Sobolewski added 14 points playing on a sprained toe which occurred during the championship game against Illinois State in South Padre.

Against the UIC Flames, I felt as if Northwestern would bounce back. This was another in-state game, an opportunity to put a stamp on the claim "Chicago's Best Team," especially after beating a tough Illinois State squad. The Wildcats played more patiently, and did run their offense getting quality shots offensively. However, missing free-throws (shooting 50 percent), getting outworked, and not playing with the same hunger and desire that UIC possessed cost Northwestern the game.

The Wildcats have to find a way to persevere through these obstacles they are currently facing. The seniors need to perform with a sense of urgency, because the NCAA tournament is on the line and Northwestern can't afford any bad losses. Its no more "wait until next year." This team has the best chance to make history. You can't substitute effort, hustle, and playing with heart.

During my senior year, I was in this position. Even though we ended up 8-8 in the Big Ten, we struggled during our non-conference season. I shut the locker room door after an embarrassing loss and yelled at every player who wore a Northwestern uniform. I even told the coaches to get out so that I could talk to "my team." I informed them of how serious and important that season was being my last.

It hurts being a former player, and even for the fans, to watch a team who isn't giving 100 percent on the court.

Follow on Twitter: @JitimYoung

Jitim Young was a standout for Northwestern from 2000-2004. A Chicago native, he now serves as color commentator for NU basketball on WGN Radio 720.

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