NUsports.com Special Contributor Skip Myslenski offers up his look back at Northwestern's contest against Iowa on Sunday at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
* Let us begin with Fran McCaffery, the Iowa coach. "I'm typically more concerned with their three-point shooting than their back door layups," he would say early Sunday evening, shortly after his team's 20-point win over the 'Cats. "They usually get you with one or the other or both. We've had trouble with them making multiple threes over the years. Ten, 11, 12, 13, 14. The first time I coached against them in this league, they made 14 in that game. That just blows the game open. So. We were up, we were up pressuring, and that makes it hard for the passer. Even if the back door cut's open, it's hard to make that pass. But what's hard to do against that offense is to sustain it the way we did. To me, that's what's most impressive. You can lock it up for short periods of time. But, normally, eventually they'll get you. Today they didn't."
* Now let us turn to Bill Carmody, whose 'Cats put up just 15 first-half points against the Hawkeyes, just 50 points in the game. "I thought they defended very well," he said at one point.
"We're having a hard time putting the ball in the basket," he said at another.
"We're having a hard time figuring out who's going to score," he said at a third.
"Our offense is really lacking, to tell you the truth," he said at a fourth.
"We're doing too much dribbling, if you watch out there," he said at a fifth. "Sobo's (point Dave Sobolewski) dribbling around too much. Al's (Alex Marcotullio) dribbling around too much. Reggie's (Reggie Hearn) dribbling too much. We have to pass the ball and cut and share the ball more, then usually good things happen. Then tonight, that first half, we had some open looks. We missed about four layups (that were) sort of contested. But stuff you have to make if you're going to win."
* The Hawkeyes, from the start on Sunday, did challenge the 'Cats defensively. They met the ball high, out beyond the three-point arc, and rarely did they surrender either an open look or the room needed for that entry pass that leads to an easy, back door layup. Still, with 9:33 left in the first half, the 'Cats went up 10-9 after Hearn dropped in a jumper.
Yet they were shooting poorly, and their offense lacked rhythm, and it evidenced none of those hard screens and sharp cuts and crisp passes it needs to be effective, and so the inevitable now occurred. The 'Cats suffered a drought that produced this: one-of-10 shooting through the rest of the half and a 10-point Hawkeye lead when the break finally came.
* At that break, the 'Cats were five-of-24 overall (20.8 percent) and one-of-11 on their threes (9.1). At game's end, those numbers were 15-of-51 (29.4 percent) and five-of-26 (19.2). "Tonight, it was just stagnant," Carmody also said of the offense that produced those figure. "But, again, I don't want to dwell on this, just our offense. It's been a problem now for awhile."
* But, more than once, Carmody would allude to his veterans, who collectively struggled against the Hawkeyes. There was Sobolewski, who missed all five of his three-point attempts, finished just four-of-11 overall, and had nearly as many turnovers (four) as assists (five). And there was Hearn, who missed all three of his three-point attempts and finished two-of-six overall. And there was Marcotullio, who put up five threes and made but one. And there was Jared Swopshire, who missed all three of his three-point attempts and finished but one-of-six overall. "The veterans have to come through for us," Carmody would say. "I've been trying to tell our team, the veterans have to do it. Anything we get from our younger guys, right now it's gravy. It has to be your veterans, and I didn't think our veterans did enough today to make us win."
"Coach is expecting a lot out of us, as he should be. We have to step up," said Marcotullio. "We just have to do more. That's the bottom line. We have to get more rebounds, knock down shots, of course. Do things that help the team win. That's the most-important thing."
* This is important to note as well. The Hawkeyes opened young with a starting lineup of three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior. But off the bench they brought sophomore Josh Oglesby and juniors Melsahn Basabe and Zach McCabe, and together they contributed 32 points on 13-of-22 shooting. "Their veterans won the game. Those guys had really good games," Carmody said of them.
"The beautiful thing about bringing experience off the bench is you're doing exactly that. You're bringing in guys off the bench who have been there before," said McCaffery. "They've played against Big Ten competition. The other thing is, Zach, Melsahn and Josh can all score. So we're bringing in experience and scoring off the bench. That helps tremendously."
Off the 'Cat bench, in turn, came Marcotullio and the redshirt freshmen Mike Turner and Tre Demps. They combined for 20 points on six-of-20 shooting.
* One last notation. The Hawkeyes scored 40 points in the paint and the 'Cats, just 18. "I thought Al would come along, that if he got the ball inside, he'd be able to score a little bit," Carmody would say of freshman center Alex Olah, who had just one field goal and three points. "But he's shying away from stuff and not going up and dunking it, trying to avoid contact and he has to push through it."
"We have to score more inside," said Marcotullio. "I think that'll open up our shooting lanes and we'll be able to drive-and-kick a little more, and get more cleaner looks out of the offense."
* Those are some of the snapshots that help explain this 'Cat loss. But their underlying problem, their fundamental issue, was best explicated by Carmody when he was asked about Sobolewski, a point who is now looking to score as much as he is to feed. "I think he's feeling now, 'Who am I going to pass to?' That's where we are right now," he said here. "I don't think he's happy dribbling around so much and flying through there and all. But he's a competitor and someone has to help him out a little bit. It's all tied together. It's not this guy or that guy. That's how we talk to our team. Individually, we try to help them along. But we have to do it collectively."