Pass me the neuralyzer, please, for I do not wish to remember this game for any longer.
Northwestern (17-7, 6-5 B1G) went to Bloomington and lost 66-38 to Indiana (17-8, 7-5 B1G). This time, there were no silver linings, no surprise bench performances, no optimistic hopes for the next game. After the shellacking, Northwestern’s NCAA Tournament hopes are in serious jeopardy, and two daunting road trips to Minnesota and Iowa await.
Northwestern nearly got doubled up by a team it beat comfortably at home a few weeks ago. In the process the Wildcats scored just 36 points. The game began with an 11-2 Indiana run and the Hoosiers never looked back, despite not having a particularly efficient offensive performance.
Indiana’s inefficiency kept the game within 9 points at the end of the half, but the bottom fell out for Northwestern in the third quarter. Before long, an Amanda Cahill three with 6:16 left made it a 43-23 Indiana lead, effectively ending any hopes at a Northwestern comeback.
The losses are starting to get extremely concerning for Joe McKeown’s team. A double-digit home loss to a Penn State team that struggles on the road? Not good. A 28-point loss to a team with less talent? Confounding and disheartening. It has been a long season for Northwestern, filled with injuries (senior captain Christen Inman barely played), tragedy and missed three-pointers.
If they are exhausted, it would not be a surprise. If their will has been sapped, it’s understandable. But the basketball...the basketball is painful to watch.
The goal for this season was to make a return to the NCAA Tournament. Right now that increasingly looks unfeasible. Northwestern was 47th in RPI before this defeat, and they will likely fall out of the top 50. Even with a win at Minnesota (no guarantee), Northwestern will likely have to win three of the four remaining games to be on the bubble. Two of those games are on the road against Purdue and Iowa.
The main problem is clearly the offensive production.Northwestern did a good job of disrupting Indiana’s offensive rhythm in the first half, as it usually does, but the scoring punch that must accompany good defense was absent.
Nia Coffey was 3-for-13 and had just 9 points. Memories of her historic double-double streak seem like a distant fiction. Lauren Douglas, perhaps showing signs of fatigue having been out for all of last season, was 1-for-7 from the field. Northwestern now appears to be relying on Amber Jamison, a previously unheralded sophomore, to provide much of the team’s offense with Inman limited and Abi Scheid experiencing first-year growing pains. Jamison had 9 points and the team’s only three-pointer (after 11 attempts). It wasn’t even close to enough.
To make the NCAA Tournament once with four years of Ashley Deary, Christen Inman and All-American Nia Coffey would be tremendous shame. It’s looking more and more likely. The extenuating circumstances of this year must be considered, but at the absurd yet paramount point at which the team’s performance as a basketball team must be evaluated in its own context, Northwestern hasn’t been good. In its previous five games, even in those ugly wins over Wisconsin and Rutgers, Northwestern simply has not been a NCAA Tournament-level basketball team.
As for this particular game...
You know what to do, Will.