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December 1, 2012

NU doused by the Flames

EVANSTON-Northwestern looked on Saturday like a team still hung over from an ugly loss to Maryland. And the Wildcats added to their woes by posting an even uglier defeat, 50-44 to UIC.

Maryland blew the Wildcats out on Tuesday night, 77-57, but at least the Terrapins are an ACC team that will likely make the NCAA tournament. UIC is a team that Big Ten programs invite to their arena to serve as a cure for a hangover, not make it worse.

After the game, coach Bill Carmody had an easy time pointing to turnovers and free-throw shooting as reasons for a loss that Northwestern (6-2) just can't afford before it begins conference play.

The Wildcats turned the ball over an uncharacteristic 16 times, compared to just 10 for the Flames (6-1). They also hit just 10-of-20 free throws, while their counterparts sunk 14 of 15.

It doesn't take a math major to figure out that numbers like those will cost you in a tight game.

"Looking at the stats, 16 turnovers and that's just too many," said Carmody. "Too many for a team picking you up at the top of the key (with) no real pressure. Those are 16 possessions...16 times you probably don't get a shot.

"Then it's foul shooting," he continued. "Ten of 20, that's 10 points."

Compounding matters, the Wildcats missed the front end of one-on-one situations five times, three times by Reggie Hearn. Twice more Wildcats missed both of a pair of shots from the charity stripe.

Hearn wound up just 4-of-9 on free throws, while Dave Sobolewski and Alex Olah were 0-for-2.

Hearn also led the way with five turnovers, while Jared Swopshire, who failed to score, was one of four Wildcats who registered a pair of TOs.

Still, the Wildcats had a shot to win down the stretch, despite not hitting a single field goal in the last 4:18.

The score was tied at 44 with less than two minutes to go when Drew Crawford, who led Northwestern with 18 points, missed a short jumper. Hearn, who led the Wildcats with nine rebounds to go with his 10 points, was there for the offensive board, but he missed a twisting putback.

On UIC's trip down the floor, a missed Daniel Barnes 3-pointer was rebounded by Josh Crittle, who hit his putback to make it 46-44 with :53 left.

Olah, who contributed 6 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks, then missed a hook shot from the right block. Hearn was again there for the rebound, but he again missed a layup.

From there, it seemed fitting that free throws would seal the deal for the Flames.

UIC's Gary Talton was fouled on the ensuing possession and made both of his free throws with 29 seconds left. After Dave Sobolewski -- what else? -- missed the front end of a one-and-one, Hayden Humes sunk two more foul shots to give the Flames their final margin.

Northwestern shot just 34.9 percent (15-for-43) for the game and posted its second straight abysmal 3-point shooting performance, hitting just 4-of-16 (25 percent). The Wildcats' 16 turnovers represented four times the number they had against Maryland.

His offense is clearly struggling, yet Carmody wouldn't blame the fact that five of the nine players who saw action were playing their first season with the Wildcats. To him, it's simply a matter of execution.

"I think they know it," said Carmody when asked whether his players had mastered NU's Princeton offense. "It's who are the Xs and who are the Os… Right now, our Os aren't executing."

Northwestern also got very little production from its bench: Kale Abrahamson's five points was the only contribution from non-starters on the scoring sheet. Subs also came up with just five of 39 rebounds and three of 11 assists.



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