NUsports.com Special Contributor Skip Myslenski previews the Northwestern men's basketball team's home game against Ohio State on Thursday.
* The intellect of Holmes is not needed to analyze the 'Cats Thursday night meeting with Ohio State at Welsh-Ryan. To succeed, they must trust their offense. To succeed, they must make shots. To succeed, they must defend with vigor. To succeed, they must do the dirty work on the boards.
Oh. And a decent start would help as well.
* Sunday night at Purdue, for the third straight game, the 'Cats missed shots early and quickly fell into a hole. (In this case, 11 points.) Then, to the Scribbler's eye, they appeared to stray from their offense and looked to make that proverbial eight-point play that would quickly get them back into the fray. "Yeah. I felt the same way," point Dave Sobolewski said Wednesday when we mentioned this to him. "Whenever we get down, the only way we're going to get back in the game is with defense and running through our offense. We're not a one-on-one type team. We never will be with the guys we've got. So the only way we're going to score a lot of points is by running through our stuff, staying sharp, moving from one thing to the next, and making hard cuts. When we break out of our offense, things don't go well. So that's a focus here. I think that's been one of our problems the last few games."
"Definitely," forward Kale Abrahamson added when the same thought was presented to him. "It's hard when you're down. Everyone wants to make a play right away, and the way the offense is structured, it's not structured score in the first five, 10 seconds (of the shot clock). It's almost like you have to calm yourself down. You're down that much, but you have to calm yourself down and play with the principles we've been playing with all year."
"I agree with that. We talked about that after the game," Bill Carmody concluded when he heard that impression. "You had some nice looks early, you missed them, all of a sudden you're down early and you want to get back, so you take a quick shot. Now they get it again. So, yeah, I think that's exactly right on. You have to let the offense work for you. The game's not over in the first five minutes, so don't try to get it all back at one time."
* The 'Cat defense, one of their calling cards early, has also been less that stellar during their five-game losing streak. This is why we wondered if it is effected when the offense is struggling so. "Yeah. I think definitely it effects your defense," said Carmody. "For one thing, their offense becomes better. They know, 'Oh, man, these guys can't score.' So there's less pressure on a shot being made or missed. They're combined. They're like pistons. If one's going good, then the other one goes good. Or bad, bad."
Then your bad defense puts even more pressure on your offense.
"Yeah. Yeah. It's one game. It's still one game. . . When you're missing shots, at all levels, you see it in the NBA, it's harder and harder to defend."
* The 'Cats were last around at the end of a game during their Valentine Day visit to Columbus, where the Buckeyes didn't put them away until they closed with a late run. "I think we showed great toughness in that game. That's probably what's been missing the past whatever games since then," Abrahamson would say when asked what they could take from that performance. "Toughness and a will-to-win. There were only nine of us that game and 14, 15,000 people against us. So it was kind of us against the world. If we bring that same mentality, even though were playing at home, that'll help a lot."
"We definitely need to get tougher," Sobolewski later agreed. "I think a lot of it is up to the individual as opposed to the, the coaches can't just make a guy tougher. It's up to the individual and his mindset and how he's going to attack the game. It's more mental the physical. We're not going to be able to go lift weights for a week and get tougher. It's a mental game right now. We know we've got to go get every rebound and not get pushed around."
But is it possible the 'Cats are mentally worn out after combatting adversity for so long?
"I wouldn't say we're mentally worn out," Sobolewski demurred. "It's definitely been a long season with a lot of ups-and-downs. But we've only got a couple weeks left here and hopefully we can push through that and come out with a couple wins and compete."
*And finally, Sobolewski, on the 'Cats situation: "We've got nothing to lose, so we should really be having a lot of fun. There's no pressure on us for anything. So hopefully we can just go out there, give it our all and have some fun."