Having gone through finals week, the Wildcats have had the opportunity to rest their bodies and focus on school work. Coach Carmody and his staff stay around Welsh-Ryan Arena longer than usual during finals week for guys who want to get shots up throughout the day. Practice times are usually in the evening, but not mandatory if someone can't make it due to class.
Studying is extremely important because the Wildcats need to stay eligible. If players are a little beat up, finals week is a great time to get in the cold tub, take advantage of therapy and team massages, even hitting the weights really hard (which was something I liked doing as a player).
This past week, it was announced that Drew Crawford's season would end and he'd undergo surgery on his torn labrum. Crawford ends the season averaging 13.5 points and 4.6 rebounds. Crawford has also applied for his medical red-shirt to come back and join the Wildcats next season.
Sanjay Lumpkin, Kale Abrahamson, and Tre Demps have an opportunity to step up and show Wildcat fans why this season can still be very special in Evanston, Illinois. Nikola Cerina should be returning soon to help give the Wildcats a presence in the paint. Northwestern has experienced something similar in recent history when Kevin Coble got injured and John Shurna emerged as a star in the Big Ten. With Drew getting injured, who will step up?
Northwestern vs Texas State game was one of those games that we in the basketball world calls a "trap game." On paper, Northwestern should have won this game by a huge margin. However, due to injuries and key players inactive, the Texas State Bobcats could have easily pulled off an upset. With 3:31 remaining in the second half Texas State had taken momentum and Cory Stern got a huge slam dunk giving the Bobcats a lead 68-62. Stern made a costly mistake hanging on the rim and received a technical foul which sparked an 12-0 run by the Wildcats to pull out the win 74-68.
Four Wildcats were in double figures. Dave Sobolewski led the team in scoring with 18 points. Reggie Hearn added 15 points, Jared Swopshire (10), and Trey Demps (12). Kale Abrahamson started in place of Drew Crawford and played solid scoring nine points all from 3 point range. Demps, who was playing a really good game, injured his ankle and had to come out the game early in the second half.
Scoring was pretty good for Northwestern, but defense and rebounding are still an obvious weakness that needs to be addressed before the Big Ten season. Texas State wasn't the biggest team, but out-rebounded the Wildcats 38-29. Coach Carmody has this team playing man-to-man defense, and without Crawford or Jershon Cobb Northwestern will struggle guarding the perimeter during conference play.
Against Texas State, late in the game, the Wildcats went to their 1-3-1 zone defense confusing the Bobcats and forced key turnovers that transitioned into easy lay-ups. I believe Coach Carmody will break out the match-up zone which will help keep Alex Olah around the basket, and makes it tougher on teams to score in the post/driving lanes with all five guys packed inside the painted area.
I want to end on a somber note. This past week have made me appreciate family and loved ones a lot more. Associate head coach and my former teammate Tavaras Hardy lost his mother recently. My prayers and condolences goes out to the Hardy family. Also, please remember the families who lost children and loved ones in that horrific middle school shooting, in Newtown, Connecticut.
Follow on Twitter: @JitimYoung
Jitim Young was a standout for Northwestern from 2000-2004. A Chicago native, he now serves as color commentator for NU basketball on WGN Radio 720.