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No Moral Victory for Northwestern, But a Possibly Nice Glimpse of the Future

by Kevin Trahan (@k_trahan)

Those of you who want to play the moral victory card after Northwestern’s 63-53 loss to Ohio State: Dave Sobolewski doesn’t want to hear it. Not even after three consecutive blowouts.

“It was a lot of fun to play in a competitive game,” he said, “but that’s not what we play for.”

Neither Sobolewski nor Tre Demps nor Bill Carmody had a smile on his face in postgame interviews, because a loss is never a win, no matter how unexpectedly close the final score might be. This wasn’t a moral victory — it was a loss, plain and simple.

However, good things can happen in a loss, because there is good and bad in every game. The bad tonight? 15 turnovers. But there was a lot of good from the most unexpected of places — the freshmen.

The rest of this season, NU doesn’t really have much to play for. Yes, they can do their best to put the seniors out as winners, but there isn’t anything tangible that a win can bring. The rest of this season is about developing the young players who haven’t developed quickly enough this year, and getting them ready for 2013-14.

Throughout the season, we’ve seen spurts of potential from Kale Abrahamson, Alex Olah and Tre Demps. Demps is a step above the other two right now — makes sense, since he’s a redshirt freshman — but Carmody lumped him in that group, as well. Abrahamson played well the last time NU met Ohio State, while Olah was starting to get more comfortable before sustaining a concussion against Iowa.

However, those three hadn’t all put together good performances in the same game… until Thursday night. Demps had 14 points. Abrahamson had 9 points and 9 rebounds. Olah had 9 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.

This performance certainly passed the “eye test,” as well. Abrahamson and Olah made some of those cliché freshman mistakes — Abrahamson had a couple pump fakes that turned into travels, while Olah had the ball stolen from him too often and was too slow on defense — but they also showed that they’re capable of playing well in a Big Ten frontcourt. Olah posted up Deshaun Thomas and Amir Williams with some nice moves, while Abrahamson was as active on the boards and in second chance opportunities as he’s ever been.

The development for Abrahamson and Olah, in particular, has been slow. Part of the problem is they’ve been forced into a tough situation due to injuries where they’re asked to do way more than they should be expected to do. But the good news for NU is that it gets both of them plenty of experience.

It’s tough to say either player turned the corner tonight, since there will be more ups and downs. However, it’s important to see that both of them certainly have the capability to be solid players down the road. And for that success to come against Ohio State with the season winding down and coming off a few dismal performances, it couldn’t have come at a better time for this team.

No, Thursday's game wasn’t a win, but it was a very important stepping stone for NU’s youngsters as they prepare for the future. That’s not a moral victory, but it’s a step that can help build toward more real victories in the future.