Ryan Has Career Day As Replacement (Men’s Basketball)

Andrew Simon and Andrew Simon

By Andrew SimonThe Daily Northwestern

There was something missing from the Welsh-Ryan Arena court during Northwestern’s narrow loss to No. 3 Wisconsin Saturday. And it wasn’t just the Ladycats, who were away competing in Orlando, Fla.

Freshman forward Kevin Coble had started every game for the Wildcats this season and was their leading scorer. But he spent the contest sitting on the bench wearing a protective boot after spraining his left ankle in Wednesday’s loss at Michigan State.

Coble’s absence provided another freshman with an opportunity to shine, and forward Jeff Ryan didn’t let the chance get away. Playing his most extensive minutes of the season, Ryan led all players with 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting.

Although Ryan had shown flashes of potential throughout the season, he had never played more than 24 minutes or scored more than nine points in any contest.

But against the highly-ranked Badgers, Ryan stepped in and became the Cats’ most productive player, nearly leading them to a shocking upset. Ryan didn’t just drive the NU offense – he looked comfortable doing it.

“At home it’s a lot easier, even though there were a lot of Wisconsin fans out there,” said Ryan, who found out he would be starting during Friday’s practice. “I wasn’t really that nervous.”

The 6-foot-6 Glenview, Ill., product showed his poise when the Cats needed him most. With NU trailing by five in the final minute, Ryan spotted up in the corner, where he took a pass from Doyle and knocked down a 3-pointer to bring the Cats within two. The shot wasn’t pretty – it glanced off the backboard before dropping in – but it gave NU a chance to send the game to overtime or win.

Ryan also showed a willingness to play aggressively by stepping into passing lanes, taking the ball to the basket and fighting for rebounds.

“He’s fast, he jumps, and he’s long,” coach Bill Carmody said. “He’s an energetic kid, and I think he’s going to be pretty good.”

He was especially effective during the first half, in which he scored 11 points. After Wisconsin pulled in front by six with an 8-0 run, Ryan helped NU finish the half strong.

Twice in the final 3:30, Ryan stole the ball and raced to the other end of the court for a layup. He also scored another layup off a Doyle inbounds pass, helping the Cats take a two-point lead into halftime.

“It was a good game for me, I think,” Ryan said. “My teammates helped me a lot. They did a good job of setting me up.”

With Coble unlikely to play at Ohio State on Saturday, according to Carmody, Ryan should get another chance to show he deserves significant minutes even when Coble returns.

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