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: Close, but still so far

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Forty minutes is a long time to play, especially in the unforgiving environment of a packed Breslin Center against the No. 11 team in the country. Northwestern played its heart out Saturday but again fell short in the end, losing to Michigan State, 70-55.

With 8:40 remaining in the game, NU (7-14, 0-10 Big Ten) was down just 54-50, after a gorgeous pass from Jeff Ryan led to an easy basket for Sterling Williams. From there, things started to unravel for the Wildcats.

The Spartans’ tenacious defense, led by the play of center Drew Naymick, and foul trouble on two of the Cats’ top three scorers spelled doom for the Cats.

After the Cats fought to get back into the game in the second half, they couldn’t find an answer to the Spartans’ Naymick, who had six blocks to go with his 10 points and eight rebounds, most of which came late in the second half.

“They adjusted during halftime,” Moore said. “They put a little more pressure on us, and we took a few questionable shots, including myself.”

The Cats shooting took a dive after halftime, falling to just 29.6 percent even though they were finally getting second-chance opportunities thanks to sophomore guard Jeremey Nash’s physical play down low.

“In the second half we didn’t score,” NU coach Bill Carmody said. “The defense tightened up, and we got tired. We couldn’t compete for the full 40 minutes. I felt we went for a full 35.”

The difficulty the team had putting points on the board was only heightened by foul trouble.

Freshman guard Michael Thompson had 10 points before fouling out late in the second half, and junior guard Craig Moore played down the stretch with four fouls.

Despite remaining one of just two BCS conference teams without a win in conference play (Oregon State of the Pac-10 is the other, at 0-11), the Cats played up to their opponent’s level once again and showed a toughness not exhibited often this season.

Nash came off the bench to give the team a defensive boost and grabbed a career-best 10 rebounds, including four on the offensive end.

“(Nash) had 10 rebounds – usually that’s our team total,” Carmody said. “I was happy with that. He’s been playing better and better, and he’s been getting more and more time.”

Nash added three assists and two points. Although his offense wasn’t there, he still focused on sacrificing his body on the other end of the court.

“I know Coach wants me to go out there and bring energy on defense, and that’s what I do,” Nash said. “I love playing defense even if my offense isn’t there.”

Sophomore forward Kevin Coble had a subpar shooting game, going 6 of 17, but threw down a dunk, something the Cats have rarely done in the Bill Carmody era.

Although Moore had a shot tipped early in the game, drawing “Airball” calls from the raucous, white-clad Izzone student section, he finished with 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including 5 of 9 from 3-point range.

Moore’s maturation as a player helped him keep shooting even with the Izzone making comments about his purple shoes.

Michigan State senior guard Drew Neitzel equaled Moore’s hot hand, matching his 21 points and making all eight shots he attempted from inside the arc. As a team, the Spartans (20-3, 8-2) made more than half of their shots.

While the parts seem to be coming together, the Cats don’t have much time left. With opponents gearing up for the postseason, that elusive Big Ten win will be harder to come by.

But until then, Carmody has to find solace in the details.

“We haven’t won a game in the conference, and so it’s been pretty rough on our guys,” he said. “I feel like they competed just in a physical nature against a pretty strong team, and so I was happy.”

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Men’s Basketball: Close, but still so far