Men’s Basketball: Coble’s big night not enough for win

Brian Regan

In only his fourth game of the season, Kevin Coble made up for lost time Saturday night by having the biggest offensive performance of the eight-season Bill Carmody era, scoring 34 points on 14-of-18 shooting, including going 4 of 5 on 3-pointers.

Coble, who missed the non-conference season to be with his mom while she battled breast cancer, surpassed his previous high of 25 points, set last season against Western Michigan.

“In the second half we got to the right places, and (point guard Michael Thompson) was finding people, and that’s the biggest thing I can attribute the shooting to,” Coble said. “It’s (a good feeling when) you’re in the zone and playing well until you start to think about it.”

But beyond Coble, Northwestern’s shots weren’t dropping, and Michigan’s were, leading to a 78-68 NU loss. The defeat dropped the Wildcats to 5-8 and 0-4 in the Big Ten, while the Wolverines improved to 5-11, 1-3.

Coble’s hot shooting and offensive play drew congratulatory comments from Michigan coach John Beilein.

“He’s got that Larry Bird ‘now he’s here, now he’s not’ ability to fake,” Beilein said. “His fake looks like the real thing, and he’s got a feel for the game.”

Aside from Coble’s monster performance, the rest of the Cats were cold for most of the game, especially from 3-point range, hitting 1 of 16 attempts.

Although NU’s shots weren’t going in, coach Bill Carmody was looking at the other side of the ball.

“I’m more disappointed about the hardness of play, the intensity,” Carmody said. “I think they’re too concerned about making this shot and that shot and not guarding their men.”

The Cats’ defense was not up to Carmody’s usual standards, especially in the first half. The Wolverines used a 22-5 run to build a 21-point lead going into the half. At one point during that stretch Michigan made six straight field goals, benefiting from two turnovers by the Cats.

“We just accepted (Michigan) guys cutting,” Carmody said. “We reacted to everything and we didn’t force them to do anything.”

The Cats got back into the game in the second half due to Coble’s continued hot streak, helped by Thompson’s ability to find the bottom of the net. The beginning of the Cats’ second-half renaissance happened when Coble drew a double team and fed a bounce pass to Mike Capocci. The freshman took the pass down low, dunked and drew the foul, re-energizing the crowd.

By the time Coble notched his 34 points and the Cats had cut the Wolverines’ lead from 30 to eight, there were only 47 seconds left. Despite the loss, Coble said he could benefit from the experience.

“I’m trying to take something postitive back from each game and build upon that, something I can carry on to the next game,” he said. “Today, I’m hoping this is a little bit of a breakthrough, and hopefully this carries over to a team setting.”

Coble’s performance wasn’t the only bright spot for NU. There were other encouraging signs at the end of the second half, especially with the solid play of Jeremy Nash. The sophomore guard scored six points in only three minutes of play.

“He did a nice job when he was in there,” Carmody said. “Defensively he gives you something, and we weren’t getting much offense from the other guys.”

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