Big victory over Long Island ends Cats’ nonconference play

Mindy Hagen

Coach Bill Carmody’s Wildcats are striking fear into the hearts of New Yorkers. Well, one New Yorker, at least.

“I haven’t slept, not even a wink, leading up to this game,” said Jim Ferry, coach of the Long Island Blackbirds, whose team was demolished 70-42 by NU (8-3) at Welsh-Ryan Arena Saturday night. “It’s going to be scary once (Carmody) gets four years of recruiting under his belt.”

The team, led by guards Jitim Young and T.J. Parker, managed to draw early fouls on Long Island (3-7) and extend a 15-point halftime lead instead of allowing a comeback.

The 28-point margin of victory was the Cats’ biggest of the year and put an exclamation mark on a mixed bag of a nonconference season that saw NU beat several less talented opponents but struggle against a few good teams, including a 25-point loss to North Carolina State on Dec. 4.

The impressive outing against Long Island should give the Cats some confidence heading into the Big Ten season, but Carmody said he remains concerned about the team’s outside shooting. NU sunk only 4 of 13 from beyond the 3-point arc.

Without the play of Young, the team’s inability to consistently score from downtown might have been more of a factor. The junior guard had the first double-double of his career, scoring 15 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, both team highs.

He also led the team with four assists and five steals, and did not commit a single turnover. He helped start the second half on a strong note, stealing the ball on Long Island’s first possession and draining a lay-up.

Young said he’ll need to have similar efforts against the upcoming Big Ten teams for NU to maintain it’s winning ways.

“It goes back to being a veteran and stepping up when it matters, when your team really needs you,” Young said. “I have to bring my game like this every night.”

Parker also earned Carmody’s praise for running the offense and hitting timely shots. With 6:15 left in the game, the freshman drained a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to extend NU’s lead to 23 points. He finished the game with 13 points.

“(Parker’s) done very well running the team and making an open shot now and again,” Carody said. “He puts pressure on the defense just by the way he cuts.”

Defense also played a role in the victory, as the Cats held Antawn Dobie, Long Island’s leading scorer, to 11 points, about seven below his season average. The team also got the Blackbirds in early foul trouble, as Long Island committed it’s eighth team foul only seven minutes into the game.

While giving credit to NU’s defense, Ferry said his team grew frustrated with the multitude of whistles.

“It was just one of those nights,” he said.

With the first chapter of the Cats’ season complete, Parker leads the team in scoring and assists, with 12.7 points and 2.6 assists per game.

Senior center Aaron Jennings leads the team with 5.2 rebounds per game and is second in scoring, with 11.5 points per contest. Freshman swingman Jimmy Maley started the season on the bench, but has played well enough to earn six starts, averaging 6.9 points per game.

NU starts its Big Ten season Wednesday night hosting Iowa (8-3). The Cats have a three-game winning streak, having beaten Frodham and Buffalo along with Long Island after a Dec. 20 loss to Illinois-Chicago. The Cats also knocked off Elon, Kansas State and Bowling Green, beating the latter on a last-second, length-of-the-court drive and layup by Parker.

But even in some of their victories, the Cats showed weaknesses. In games against Fordham and Buffalo, NU jumped out to halftime leads before watching their opponents claw back to make it a closer contest.

But it’s the outside shooting that’s causing Carmody the most consternation heading into conference play. NU is shooting just 33.6 percent from behind the arc.

Because it will be more difficult to penetrate inside on taller Big Ten teams, Carmody knows his team needs to start hitting outside shots.

“We aren’t shooting the ball as well as I would like,” Carmody said. “I’m disappointed in our offense and basically our 3-point shooting. It puts too much pressure on your defense if you can’t score.”