Penney for NU’s thoughts (Men’s Basketball)

Jim Martinho

MADISON, Wis. — At 0-6, the Northwestern men’s basketball team is off to its worst start since, well, two years ago.

NU coach Bill Carmody sat on the sidelines Wednesday, watching as his team was out-shot, out-defended and out-hustled in the first half by Wisconsin.

But the most disturbing statistic at the break was the Badgers’ 23-8 rebounding advantage — including 12 offensive boards — as the Wildcats trailed 35-25.

“To be down only 10 at the half was surprising, because they completely outplayed us on both ends of the court,” Carmody said.

Wisconsin never let NU (8-9, 0-6 Big Ten) back in the game after dominating the first 20 minutes, cruising to a 69-50 win.

Junior guard Jitim Young led the Cats with 17 points, including 14 in the first half. Senior swingman Kirk Penney led a balanced Wisconsin attack with 18 points and 12 boards.

NU trailed 11-8 four minutes into the game, with five points coming from Young. But the Badgers made six straight shots in a 13-3 run. The Cats never recovered.

Although the Badgers (14-4, 4-2) are one of the smaller teams in the conference, they manhandled the Cats on the boards in the first 10 minutes, taking an early 11-2 rebounding advantage.

With a short starting lineup — the average height is below 6-foot-5 — coach Bo Ryan’s team made 13 of 29 shots in the half, and pulled down the rebound on all but four of its misses.

Wisconsin finished the game with a 42-21 advantage on the boards, and out-shot the Cats 46 percent to 38 percent in their 11th straight home Big Ten win. The Badgers finished the game with 17 offensive rebounds.

“That’s a great stat to have on your side,” Penney said. “We had 17 more chances to score.”

Carmody said NU’s woes on the boards were even more disturbing because the Badgers out-hustled the Cats to grab loose balls.

“A lot of those boards hit the floor first,” he said. “These are one of the teams we match up with pretty well. It seemed like they came up with every loose ball, every tip. I don’t know if we weren’t alert or they’re just that much quicker, which I know they are.”

The Badgers have been a second-half team in their past three games, outscoring opponents 117-84 after the break.

NU looked like it might change that trend. On the Cats first possession after the break, Young pulled down a high offensive rebound — one of only five in the game for NU — and fed center Aaron Jennings (13 points) for a turnaround jumper. But the Cats never got closer than 11 points the rest of the way.

Freshman Mohamed Hachad made his first career start in NU’s three-guard lineup, but scored only one point in 19 minutes. Fellow freshmen Jimmy Maley and Evan Seacat combined for four points in 26 minutes, and point guard T.J. Parker struggled for the second straight game.

Parker scored 5 points — his lowest total since the season opener — after an 8-point outing at Minnesota. He had scored in double figures in 13 of the previous 14 games.

Carmody didn’t attribute Parker’s recent poor showings to fatigue, but it was clear the Cats missed his scoring as Young and Jennings were the only reliable options.

Dating back to the end of last season, NU has now lost nine straight Big Ten games.

“We go in at halftime and say if we rebounded, or if we grabbed that loose ball, or did this or that we’d be in the game,” senior forward Jason Burke said.

“We know what the problems are, so it’s definitely frustrating.”