Boggled and Bothered

Northwestern's half-court trap, 2nd half shooting too much for sluggish Irish.

Nationally ranked college teams are occasionally forced to work to complete passes against disciplined, committed defenses.

Just not in basketball.

Northwestern consistently bothered Notre Dame's previously potent offense with its trapping scheme throughout the first half, limiting All American forward Luke Harangody to an inefficient 21 points (7-19 from the field) as the team's backbone missed a variety of makeable layups and open jump shots en route to a 72-58 Chicago Invitational loss at the UIC Pavilion Friday night.

Notre Dame shot just 31 percent from the field and 22 percent on 31 attempts from beyond the arc as the Irish countered Northwestern's 1-3-1 half court trap with ineffective high cross-court passes that failed to attack the defense's holes. The Wildcats controlled the majority of the contest before a 12-4 run early in the second half put the Irish in a 12-point deficit and scramble mode offensively.

The Irish cut the Wildcats lead to one, 52-51 with under 7:00 to play on a Tory Jackson-to Carleton Scott-to Harangody passing drill in the lane but the Wildcats, namely freshman Nick Marcotullio, answered, first with a deep 3 from the left side and then a pair of free throws to afford Northwestern another familiar 6-point cushion.

Tim Abromaitis cut the Northwestern lead to four with under four minutes to play on a corner 3, but after a defensive stop, the Irish could not resist the Siren Song of the three-point arc, launching three long jumpers (two by Harangody) on one possession (despite strong offensive rebounds by Scott and Abromaitis) and another from Abromaitis while trailing by just four with 2:50 to play.

Jackson kept the Irish alive with a drive and dish to Abromaitis that cut the Wildcats lead to two but Marcotullio struck again, drilling another deep wing 3 to stretch the lead back to five with under two minutes remaining and the Irish never threatened again.

Notre Dame guard Ben Hansbrough struggled from the field, missing all seven of his 3-point shots (1-10 overall from the floor) while still recovering from an ankle injury suffered last week vs. Long Beach State.

Notre Dame received a first half boost of energy from emerging junior Carleton Scott, as the athletic backup hit the boards and passing lanes defensively, tipping Wildcats passes and keeping several possessions alive. Scott, who didn't check back into the game in the 2nd Half until Notre Dame had fallen behind by 10 points (13:10 mark), helped bring the Irish back again but did suffer a mental lapse defensively, failing to close out on the confident Marcotullio on the shooter's decisive 3-point bucket.

Scott finished with 7 points and 8 rebounds (26 minutes) while senior guard Tory Jackson scored 11 points and added 4 assists and did not commit a turnover in 40 minutes. Abromaitis added 13 points though he struggled for the first time this season as a shooter, hitting just 5-12 from the field including 3-9 with at least eight good looks from beyond the arc.

Northwestern was led by John Shurna with 25 points and point guard Michael Thompson's 20 – 16 of which were scored in the second half.

Northwestern will square off vs. Iowa State tonight in the championship game.

Note: With the Notre Dame football team in California I was not in attendance in Chicago for last night's game. The recap was written after watching the TV tape early Saturday morning. Top Stories