Heartbreak. I am in disbelief that Northwestern found a way to lose this basketball game. Yes, it's encouraging that Northwestern controlled the game from beginning to end (Maryland took its first lead of the game with 20.6 seconds to go), but my goodness was this heartbreaking. Chris Collins spoke pregame about worrying that his team may become discouraged with so many close losses -- I can't even imagine what the atmosphere in the locker room is like tonight.
Northwestern has got to learn how to finish close games. The Wildcats are 1-6 in conference play because they have lost every close game since the conference opener against Rutgers. Some of that has to do with youth, but some of the best teams in college basketball rely heavily on freshmen and they're not this bad in crunch time.
That being said, there were some positives. But there were also a few negatives:
- The offense has been so much better in recent games. There's more movement off the ball, better screen action, and the ball is moving freely. It's no coincidence Northwestern has played seemingly superior teams close. There was a brief drought in the first half that allowed Maryland to cut into Northwestern's lead, but Northwestern found a way out of it -- something the Wildcats weren't able to do in games earlier in the season.
- Maryland was borderline lazy in the first half. Weak defense allowed Northwestern to shoot a high percentage, building a lead that they never relinquished -- until the very end. By the time Maryland turned up the intensity, it looked to have been too late, but their full-court press caused late turnovers that allowed them to pull the stunning comeback.
- Vic Law has been one of the bigger disappointments of the season for Northwestern. After a solid start, Law has seen his production -- and role -- diminish. Tonight, he was 1-4 with 3 points and 4 turnovers, including a crucial one with a minute to go. It is particularly frustrating that Law continues to take long two-pointers despite showing no signs that he can make them.
- Northwestern is better than its record. On nights like tonight that doesn't feel like any consolation at all, but it seems there's no team in the Big Ten not named Wisconsin that Northwestern can't hang with. A factor in that is that the Big Ten is down this year, but hey, it seems like there's legit progress going on.