The odds were against Northwestern.
Wisconsin was 114-8 at the Kohl Center under head coach Bo Ryan. The Wildcats’ (8-5, 0-3) last win in Madison, Wisc., came 13 years ago. Ryan was undefeated at home against unranked opponents and 9-3 in his career against the Cats.
Although NU fought valiantly to trail by nine at halftime, the chips were stacked too high. Wisconsin (12-3, 3-0) turned a single digit halftime advantage into a 29-point win, topping NU 74-45.
Ryan’s analysis of the game was simple. “We made shots and they didn’t,” he said.
NU was anemic offensively in the second half. As the temperature dipped below 15 degrees outside of the arena, NU was just as cold inside, shooting 7-of-24 from the floor in the final 20 minutes.
“I didn’t think we got good shots tonight,” Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody said. “We didn’t get the kind of looks we need to win away from home.”
The two biggest concerns for Carmody prior to the team’s second conference road game were simple – rebound and take good shots. The Cats were out-rebounded 41 to 27 and shot 16-for-51 (31.4 percent) to lose their third consecutive game.
Senior guard Craig Moore could not find his stroke, limiting the offensive prowess of the Cats’ Princeton Offense. Badgers’ junior Jason Bohannon played man-to-man defense on Moore, holding the senior sharpshooter to 9 points, including 1-of-7 from beyond the arc. Bohannon added 20 points while totaling six rebounds and five assists.
If NU fans did not know Bohannon before Wednesday’s conference matchup, they will when Wisconsin invades Evanston.
“I think he did do a good job defensively,” Carmody said of Bohannon. “And Craig needed help. I think we had some shots blocked at the beginning, and it just puts more and more pressure on your perimeter game.”
Still, Moore’s nine points led the Cats. The senior sharpshooter’s lone 3-point shot increased his conference-leading 25th consecutive game with a long-range make. Junior forward Kevin Coble added nine points, five rebounds and two assists.
As most of the team struggled offensively, Carmody tried a rotation of freshman forwards to establish a post presence. Starters Kyle Rowley and John Shurna and reserves Davide Curletti and Luka Mirkovic combined to score 13 points. Still, Carmody suggested he might shake things up next time the Cats take the court.
Despite the large final margin, NU led 9-8 just five minutes into the first half. Moore and Rowley connected on easy layups, and Coble hit a 3-pointer from the left wing to take the lead. But Wisconsin went on a 13-2 run, highlighted by an all-around offensive effort.
“The more heads a monster has, the harder he is to deal with,” Ryan said of his three players with 12 or more points.
The Badgers shot 27-of-54 from the floor and 40 percent long range.
NU’s third conference loss came in different fashion than its other Big Ten defeats. NU held a four- and one-point advantage against conference foes Penn State and Michigan State, respectively.
The Cats have a week until their next game, a conference matchup with No. 14 Purdue at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Carmody said he will hold five practices to prepare for the team’s next conference test.
“I think we definitely need the time,” Carmody said. “I’m glad we have some time off because we have a heck of a lot to work on.”