There goes the top 25 ranking.
Michigan State came into Evanston and ran Northwestern out of the gym, turning a relatively close game at halftime into a blowout. Not that it would have changed much, but apparently Bill Carmody was saving his timeouts for Thursday's game against Texas Pan-American, and sat idly by as the deficit went from 8 to 20 in a couple minutes.
For the second straight game, NU couldn't get a stop to save their life, but since they were facing a team that unlike Illinois can actually play defense, they were unable to stay in the game. Also in the Illinois game, Carmody eventually went away from the 1-3-1 zone when it clearly wasn't working (although much too late). Tonight he went pretty much exclusively with the 1-3-1 zone despite Michigan State getting easy basket after easy basket. The Spartans shot 56% from the field and got to the line 30 times, the 'Cats just had no answers at all. They did force 14 turnovers, but the times they didn't force a turnover Michigan State got a good look almost without exception. There's no doubt that the Spartans are a much more athletic team and were totally in sync, but at least try something new instead of repeatedly running a defense that clearly isn't working. I feel so bad for Thompson at the back of that zone when he inevitably has to guard a guy a foot taller than him in the post. It's just painful to watch.
As for offense, the only bright spot was the play of John Shurna, who scored 29 points and did a nice job finishing inside. Alex Marcotullio had 16 points, but half were in garbage time against Michigan State's scrubs. Other than that, not much to write home about. Thompson had 7 assists, but just 8 points and was shut down for the most part by Kalin Lucas. It was his second straight poor shooting game, and I really think all the minutes he's played are starting to catch up with him.
The lowlight on offense was the play of Luka Mirkovic, who for the second straight game forced up a ton of bad shots. He had 4 points on 2 of 9 shooting, and also was 0 for 4 at the line. Very disappointing from a guy who looked like he'd improved his offensive game at the end of non-conference play.
This was really just an ugly loss, bringing NU fans back to reality a bit after the excessive hype and expectations that came with the top 25 ranking. The good news is that they have over a week to regroup and get ready for their next league game Sunday at Michigan, with a glorified scrimmage against terrible Texas Pan-American on Thursday. There's some time to get things together, but this team is in serious trouble if they don't beat Michigan.