Men’s Basketball: Foul troubles foil Northwestern in loss to Indiana

Dan Ryan

Entering Wednesday’s game in Bloomington, Ind., the Hoosiers’ obvious size advantage over the Wildcats was a cause for concern. With Northwestern employing a smaller lineup in the past few weeks, defending the paint against Indiana posed a serious challenge.

Unfortunately for the Cats, their job only got tougher once they stepped on the court.

In the first 10 minutes against Indiana, NU had already picked up six fouls. It collected five more before the half ended, leaving freshman guard Dave Sobolewski with three while junior guard Reggie Hearn and sophomore guard JerShon Cobb each had two.

In an attempt to stop Indiana from driving to the lane and easily getting the ball into the post at will, coach Bill Carmody switched to the 1-3-1-zone midway through the opening frame. The result was an NU team caught up in foul trouble struggling to defend Indiana’s size.

“With this team, it’s a good shooting club,” Carmody said. “We just thought ‘let’s see what we can do man-to-man.’ But they were getting the ball inside to (Christian) Watford and (Cody) Zeller, and it wasn’t just (senior forward John) Shurna (in foul trouble). Sobo(lewski) had three, Reggie was in foul trouble. It seemed like everyone was in foul trouble. We tried to see if we could change the mentality of the game a little bit.”

Despite the increase in whistles, NU managed to defend Indiana better for stretches while in the 1-3-1. The Cats clawed back into the game largely on the play of their defense, holding the Hoosiers to 2 points during a key two-and-a-half minute stretch late in the first half.

“We were able to disrupt them a little bit,” Shurna said. “They’re good in transition, so the zone kind of slowed them down a little bit, gave them a different look as opposed to man-to-man.”

NU’s foul woes continued in the second half, with Hearn fouling out while Shurna and junior guard Alex Marcotullio each found himself fighting foul trouble as well.

Compounding the Cats’ problems was the lack of depth from the bench. With the starters for both sides in foul trouble, each team had to turn to its bench during key stretches of the game.

While Cobb saw his first significant action during Big Ten play, NU’s bench contributed only one point to the cause. Indiana enjoyed 23 from their reserve unit.

Shurna, however, would not go so far as to blame the loss on fouls.

“Fouls happen in every game,” Shurna said. “Guys are used to playing with fouls. It’s just part of the game. Obviously, anytime you get a couple guys in foul trouble, it’s not good. That’s just any situation.”

The Cats now have a home stretch build on their depth for the remaining five games of conference play with contests against Minnesota and Michigan on the slate for the upcoming week.

“We have to make sure we defend home court,” Shurna said. “We start Saturday against Minnesota, we have to get back on the right track.”

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