Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

70° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Season’s best? Cats take steps in defeat

Northwestern coach Bill Carmody has been adamant that his program’s turnaround will not be a speedy process.

But the Wildcats may have gotten one step closer Saturday night, despite losing their home finale 69-57 to a red-hot Ohio State squad in front of 5,013 fans at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

NU battled furiously for the majority of the game, only to see the contest slip from its grasp in the final minutes. The Cats (10-18, 2-13 Big Ten) trailed for almost the entire game – their last lead came with 13:28 left in the first half – but stayed close most of the way.

They enjoyed stronger crowd support, even earning a standing ovation near the end of the first half. They limited Ohio State star Ken Johnson – who set the all-time conference record for blocked shots during the first half – to 22 minutes because of foul trouble, despite not having the size to match up with him.

And the Cats’ newfound competitiveness has won them respect, if not games.

“Without question, they seem a lot more comfortable running their stuff than they did in January,” said Buckeyes head coach Jim O’Brien, whose team topped the Cats 73-56 in the conference opener this year. “Their recent wins over Iowa and Penn State really got everybody’s attention.”

The Buckeyes (19-9, 10-5) survived Saturday’s game in part because NU was just 9-for-27 from the field in the second half, and shot 38.5 percent for the game.

More importantly, the Cats couldn’t knock down three-pointers, going just 4-for-17 from beyond the arc.

“This game was right there for us, but we just couldn’t pull it off,” said freshman point guard Jitim Young. “When we get the opportunity to take shots, we’ve got to make them.

“Instead of the beginning of the season, when everyone’s going half-hearted, and we go down 12 or 15 points in the beginning of the game, now, as we’ve grown up more, we jump right on a team.”

NU had three players in double figures, once again led by Tavaras Hardy. The junior center nailed the first three-pointer of his career in the second half and had a game-high 17 points.

But the Cats had as many turnovers as Hardy had points, missing out on fast-break and transition opportunities that could have made the difference.

Down four points with less than five minutes to play, both Ben Johnson and Young couldn’t convert short shots that would have brought the Cats to within a bucket. And the Buckeyes responded, hitting all eight of their free throws down the stretch to make the game look more like a blowout than the play on the floor suggested.

“It’s a game next year I hope we win,” Carmody said. “I thought we were a pretty decent team out there tonight.”

The Cats finished 8-7 at home but have yet to win a game on the road. They’ll have one final chance Wednesday against Michigan – the last regular-season contest of the year – before resting during the week leading up to the Big Ten tournament.

The Cats lost to the Wolverines 72-65 at home earlier this season, but if Saturday’s game is any indication, Michigan should expect a more formidable foe this time around.

“I wasn’t shocked,” Ken Johnson said. “We’ve watched a lot of film, and as of what I’ve seen, it’s a totally different team.”

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Season’s best? Cats take steps in defeat