Men’s Basketball: Ice cold Wildcats crushed by Golden Gophers, 75-53

Dan Ryan

At the first media timeout in Minnesota, Northwestern found itself down 7-0. And that was as close as the Wildcats got the rest of the game.

Minnesota (15-5, 3-4 Big Ten) dominated NU (12-7, 2-5) from the outset Sunday, taking control early and enjoying a comfortable lead throughout, beating the Cats 75-52 in Minneapolis.

Although NU had few bright spots to point to in the entire contest, coach Bill Carmody said the opening minutes doomed the Cats before they even got on the board.

“It’s the start of the game,” Carmody said. “It was 7-0 after four minutes. That’s not the worst thing in the world, but we just couldn’t score. We had a couple sort of easy ones, I thought. It just seemed to snowball after that. I think it was 11-0. And then the foul line. I don’t even want to think about that. It was (a) 17 (point deficit) at half. You make five foul shots, 12 is within striking distance. Seventeen is rough.”

The Gophers went on an 11-0 run to open the contest as the Cats missed their first 14 shot attempts. Senior forward Davide Curletti scored NU’s first two points of the afternoon – on a layup with 12 minutes and 11 seconds remaining in the first half.

“Some of them we just tried to shoot a little too fast instead of slowing it down since we’re on an away court,” Curletti said. “Maybe try to get an even better shot because they were all good shots. We should have worked a little harder to run down the clock a little bit.”

Crawford added to NU’s total with a bankshot to bring the deficit back to single digits midway through the first half, but the Gophers responded with another run to stretch their lead to 30-9. The Cats managed to pull within 17 in the final minutes of the first half, the only period in which NU outplayed its opponent, according to Carmody.

“We just tried to say, ‘Let’s break it into four-minute segments and get back,'” Carmody said. “‘In these four minutes, let’s see if we can outplay them by four or five points so by the half, you’re within striking distance.'”

Junior guard Reggie Hearn opened the second half with a three, but Minnesota once again responded with a run, and succeeded in keeping the Cats well outside striking distance for the rest of the game.

Although junior John Shurna led the offense with 21 points, he was the only NU starter in double figures. Junior guard Alex Marcotullio added 11 off the bench to finish as the Cats’ second-leading scorer. By contrast, all five Minnesota starters ended in double figures.

“The offense is so generous to every position,” Curletti said, “… meaning that the guards, forwards and center all have an equal opportunity in getting shots. It’s up to us to get open and cut hard and make the right pass. It wasn’t our offense, per se. It was just us not being able to finish those shots.”

“Reggie Hearn and Alex (Marcotullio) played fine,” Carmody added. “But the guys that are supposed to make you win just weren’t there in the first half. I think they were trying, but I think they were trying to do it on their own.”

NU’s second-leading scorer on the season, junior forward Drew Crawford, finished with just five points on 2-of-10 shooting. Despite leading his team in points, Shurna said the back-to-back poor starts the Cats have had over the last week fall on his shoulders. NU fell to Wisconsin on Wednesday, 77-57.

“It’s my responsibility as a senior right out from the start to make sure that we’re all ready,” Shurna said. “We’ve had two bad starts on the road, and that can’t happen. It’s pretty tough to come back on the road. I take full responsibility for it.”

The Cats return to the court Saturday, taking on Purdue at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The week off between games will be spent working on two things, Carmody said.

“Offense and defense,” he said. “How’s that?”

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