Well, that was pretty disappointing. While the final score doesn't demonstrate that it actually was somewhat competitive in the second half, it ended up being no worse than we deserved with a complete inability to handle the 1-3-1.
Tory Jackson was the player of the game for ND. 11 points, 4 assists, no turnovers. He was the only guy to shoot consistently from beyond the arc, making three of his five attempts. Really not a whole lot of complaints on how he handled himself. He was not as active as usual in taking the ball to the paint, but Northwestern's defense really did not set up opportunities for such play.
Ben Hansbrough was one of the many disappointments. His shot was completely gone. 0-7 from three-point land, 1-10 overall. Props to the Wildcats for negating any open looks all night, but at some point you have to rely on your players to stop jacking up low percentage shots when they aren't falling. Be patient and learn to break down a zone or you'll lose to any half-decent NIT squad that plays a 1-3-1.
Not going to waste space on Jonathan Peoples. At least he only played 15 minutes last night. He and Ty Nash are starters in name only now.
Nash did pick up 5 boards, but also played just 15 minutes. There is absolutely no reason to keep giving these two guys the honor of being the first on the floor when two substitutes are clearly better options at this point. Let's see if either Ty or Johnny can be an effective 6th man.
Which brings us to Luke Harangody. Seriously, Luke? You are a national player of the year candidate. You are one of the best big men in the country and in our school's history. The one thing you are not is a shooting guard. Starting tonight, please do not attempt another three pointer during a competitive contest. An 0-6 night makes him 31% from beyond the arc for the year. He needs to stick to the post and mid-range game that has been so effective the last two seasons. His current style is wasting far too many possessions. One last thing... if you don't get a call, quit whining about it and just run back to play defense. Constant appeals to the referees just make you look weak.
Off the bench Abromaitis struggled with his shot a bit, but looked much better in comparison to the rest of the squad. He was the second highest scorer with 13 points and pulled down 5 rebounds, 4 on offense. Carleton Scott had 7 and 8 (including 4 offensive rebounds). Both played about 25 minutes. I love to see both of them crashing the offensive glass. Last year, we left a lot of second-chance points by the wayside. It's about time a couple guys made an effort to rebound on both ends of the floor, especially with the best rebounder in the Big East imitating a blind Reggie Miller. Both should be starting.
Listen, it's not the end of the world. One game does not a season make, and all that. This squad will ultimately be judged in its ability (or inability) to make the NCAA Tournament, which relies heavily on how it performs in conference play. If we go 10-8 in the Big East and pick up a first-round BET win, this loss will be forgotten.
What is scary is the way we lost last night. The 1-3-1 is a fairly easy zone to use, at least in spurts. West Virginia likes it a lot, which spells disaster when the Mountaineers come in town. Any other program with half-decent scouting will see this performance and manufacture their own zone defense to shut off our offensive flow. Until we prove otherwise this team has met its kryptonite, much like when Ohio State shut down K-Mac a year ago. Future opponents will learn from this. We better learn how to react.