At least it was over quickly.
Northwestern let Wisconsin have their way for pretty much the entire game, opening up a 19 point halftime lead then starting the 2nd half on a 24-4 run to blow the game completely wide open. In fact, the final score doesn't even indicate how bad this was; the NU scrubs outplayed Wisconsin's scrubs in garbage time to cut the final deficit to 32.
It was basically the Illinois game all over again. Wisconsin got any shot they wanted, made the vast majority of their open jumpers, and on the rare occasions where they missed, they got their own rebound. NU's offense looked pretty good for much of the first half, but once Wisconsin got up by double digits, NU stopped running their offense and started chucking early in the shot clock, and their offense stagnated.
• I said in the preview that Drew Crawford could have a big game. Oops. Crawford was horrendous, missing all 6 of his field goals, most of which were contested fadeaways.
• John Shurna had a strong first half when he played within the offense, but he forced things in the 2nd half and started pulling a Crawford (chucking up off-balance jumpers just inside the three point line). He finished with 13 points on 13 field goal attempts.
• Luka Mirkovic was really the only NU player to show up, scoring 13 points and continuing his strong free throw shooting. Sadly, he is a total liability on defense, as he's not strong enough to keep the opponent from setting up in the low post and doesn't have the athleticism to alter shots on the interior. At least he doesn't compound his mistakes by committing dumb fouls, that would be reserved for Davide Curletti, who has mastered the art of making enough contact to get called for a foul but not enough to prevent the other guy from scoring. He's basically the poor man's Vince Scott at this point.
No one else on NU did anything worth discussing, other than playing no defense and not boxing anyone out on the defensive glass. The defensive performance was truly horrendous, as Wisconsin consistently got open perimeter jumpers and made them at an alarming rate. Carmody tried match-up zone, 1-3-1, and even some full court pressure; none of it came close to working. This Northwestern team is just really bad at guarding people one on one; they consistently fail at keeping opponents out of the lane, be it on dribble penetration or on post-ups. Then the defense has to collapse, and it leaves someone wide open for an outside shot. I'm not sure if it's a lack of effort, poor coaching, or just the players not being as good as the opponent, but whatever it is, I really don't see it getting any better in the near future. Tonight, NU let Josh Gasser, who entered today averaging 5 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists per game, had 10,12 and 10 for the first triple double in Wisconsin program history. Embarrassing.
It should be said that Wisconsin deserves a lot of the credit for how this game went; they executed their offense flawlessly and seemingly made every open jumper they took. But Northwestern basically laid down in the 2nd half, and that's not acceptable, regardless of the margin. Last year in Madison, Wisconsin shot something like 75% in the first half and had a double digit lead, and I hoped NU would remember how they rallied to make that game interesting, and show some fight coming out of the locker room. Instead, the complete opposite happened, and both the players and coaches should be embarrassed.
Wednesday, Northwestern heads to Minnesota for what is essentially a must-win game at this point. While it's tough to be the slightest bit optimistic about that one, the Gophers have continually allowed bad teams to play them tight at home, and with their point guard Al Nolen questionable after suffering a sprained ankle last night, NU has a chance to steal one on the road. They bounced back nicely from their last embarrassing loss, let's hope they can somehow do it again.