Men’s Basketball: Swopshire key to Wildcats’ success

Graduate student Jared Swopshire moves the ball up the court. Swopshire's rebounding and scoring have often made a difference for the Wildcats, but his coaches are still looking for more consistency.

Daily file photo by Meghan White

Graduate student Jared Swopshire moves the ball up the court. Swopshire's rebounding and scoring have often made a difference for the Wildcats, but his coaches are still looking for more consistency.

Ava Wallace, Assistant Sports Editor

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It can be hard to get an often-quiet Welsh-Ryan Arena to its feet and truly pumped up during a game, but Northwestern fans do have their favorites.

Last year, there was John Shurna and injured senior guard Drew Crawford. And during one of last year’s games in December the student section chanted, “walkin’ in a Reggie wonderland” every time then-junior guard Reggie Hearn made a particularly nice shot.

But Wednesday night, even with 3,000 seats empty, Welsh-Ryan got loud.

Fans cheered when an upset against No. 12 Minnesota seemed imminent, but they roared even more for graduate student forward Jared Swopshire.

With 16 points, Swopshire led the team offensively for the first time since the Cats played TCU during the South Padre Invitational.

He also outscored Hearn, the team’s usual offensive leader, by 3 – which Swopshire has only done once since conference play began. Swopshire also tied with freshman guard Tre Demps for most shots taken.

The uptick in scoring is a welcome sight for Swopshire’s teammates. The Louisville transfer is averaging 9.6 points per game, good for third on the team in Crawford’s absence.

Swopshire has definitely been NU’s best rebounder this season and is a key part of the Cats’ staunch defensive play.

The Cats tough 1-3-1 formation — which allowed NU to make a second-half run against No.7 Indiana and caught Minnesota off guard — depends in part on Swopshire’s aggressiveness at the basket.

Swopshire averages 6.1 rebounds per game, 1.5 rebounds more than Hearn, and was on track to out-rebound Crawford as well before the senior was injured.

Against the Golden Gophers, Swopshire stood tall for NU with team-high 8 rebounds, 4 of which came during the crucial last 10 minutes of the game.

As far as his well-demonstrated willingness to fight for the ball, the Louisville transfer said he is just doing what comes naturally.

“That’s a big key point for us this year, rebound and defense, so that’s been something that I’ve really tried to make a good effort at doing,” Swopshire said. “It’s just a desire to get every ball that comes off of that rim, really.”

Although Swopshire had a strong showing against Minnesota, fans can only hope Swopshire’s shooting game is here to stay.  The forward had a shaky spell at the beginning of January that left some questioning his consistency.

Swopshire kicked off conference play with 11 points against Michigan, then dipped to a measly 6 against Minnesota. He bounced back with 17 against Penn State but then dropped only 2 points against Iowa.

Still, coach Bill Carmody explains Swopshire’s fluctuating play as part of the transition.

“I just think you have to understand that it’s a different role for him here than it was at Louisville,” Carmody said. “He was … a significant role player on a final four team – so he’s experienced, he’s not afraid or anything, but he wasn’t asked to shoot as much, to score as much.”

A not-so-smooth transition notwithstanding, the Cats will need Swopshire’s defensive skills  for a win on Saturday night, despite Nebraska’s second-to-last rank in the Big Ten.

And Carmody said Swopshire meshes perfectly with the team.

“He’s a good player. … He goes after the ball and he’s a competitor, he’s just not a big talker. But that’s good because I got Sobo for that,” Carmody said. “It’s like yin and yang.” 

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