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

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

The Daily Northwestern

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Men’s Basketball: Cats off to slow start in conference

Northwestern started 2008 on the wrong foot, dropping its first two Big Ten games of the season.

The losses overshadowed the return of sophomore Kevin Coble. Coble, who led the team in scoring and rebouding last season, missed the team’s non-conference schedule to be with his mother, who is battling cancer. The sophomore swingman came off the bench and scored 11 points in each contest.

The Wildcats (5-6, 0-2 Big Ten) lost on the road Sunday to Ohio State, 62-51. While NU staged a spirited second-half comeback, rallying from 15 points down to pull within 43-39 with 13 minutes left, the Cats eventually fell short.

Junior guard Craig Moore led the team with 16 points despite making only four of his school-record-tying 14 three-points attempts.

NU looked to be overwhelmed by the speed of Ohio State’s backcourt, led by guard Jamar Butler. Although Butler went 0-7 from the field, the Buckeyes’ floor general pushed the tempo throughout the entire 40 minutes, leading all players with 11 assists and adding 10 rebounds. Among his favorite targets was center Kosta Koufus, who finished with a game-high 17 points and 12 rebounds.

The Cats were out-rebounded by the Buckeyes 46-23, once again proving that the height-challenged team will have a difficult time staying competitive until someone is able to start grabbing boards consistently.

Although coach Bill Carmody said rebouding was a concern, he added: “You get out-rebounded by 23 rebounds, but they were almost all defensive rebounds. When you miss a lot of a shots, you are going to get a lot of rebounds …. I think we have to shoot the ball better.”

Four days earlier, the Cats fell to a Penn State team they defeated on their home court last season. NU fell behind midway through the first half and was unable to make up the deficit on its way to a 79-68 defeat.

Penn State relied on the frontcourt tandem of Jamelle Cornley and Geary Claxton, who proved too big for the Cats to handle. Cornley led all scorers with 22 points and 11 rebounds, and Claxton added 18 points and 11 rebounds.

“It was like men amongst boys out there with those two,” Carmody said.

The game was at its tightest before the half. The Cats jumped out to an early lead, with Thompson’s three-point play giving NU a 16-9 edge.

The two teams traded the lead several times before the half, with a Jason Okrzesick three just before the buzzer giving the Cats a 35-34 halftime advantage. But the Nittany Lions opened the second half with a 20-4 run to put the game out of reach.

While Coble struggled at times to adjust to the pace of the game, he said he was happy to be back on the court.

“It felt great to be back out there, get my mind off things,” said Coble, who had two rebounds and two assists to go with his 11 points. “I think there were a combination of feelings being back. I just have to get used to the guys and back into the system.”

Reach Matthew Murray at [email protected].

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Men’s Basketball: Cats off to slow start in conference