After a horrible showing against Wisconsin at home earlier this season, Northwestern played with a passion and shot the lights out in the first half. However, the ‘Cats, with their NCAA tournament dreams gone, had to give it their all to overcome an early deficit, but came up short, eventually falling 78-63.
Hero of the game | Davide Curletti
Despite 19 points for Michael “Juice” Thompson in his second-to-last regular season Big Ten game, Davide Curletti was a force on both ends of the floor and was a big part of why Northwestern was able to remain competitive. Curletti finished with 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting and a perfect 5-for-5 from the line. Curletti registered bigger-than-normal minutes with 28 (compared to Luka Mirkovic’s 12) and played with an aggression that has been missing for portions of the season. His defense was also solid, playing most of the game against Jon Leuer. Leuer finished with 26 points, but Curletti forced him to earn all of his points from the inside, limiting his lethal outside shooting.
Key stat | 7-of-9 three-pointers and 30 points from Curletti, Shurna and Thompson in the first half
Northwestern was on fire in the first half, with Juice hitting all three of his three-point attempts, John Shurna with 3-of-4, and Curletti hitting his only attempt. Even more interesting, is that Northwestern was still down 13 at half despite nearly reaching their full-game average of 3-pointers. The reason? Juice, Shurna, and Curletti were the only three to score points in the first half along with poor interior defense.
Turning point | Jordan Taylor three-pointer with 5:35 remaining in the second half
After pulling within three with a three-pointer by Shurna and breathing some real hope into the game for the Wildcats, Taylor’s three was a dagger that put Wisconsin back up eight. Taylor pulled up at the top of the key and drained the shot from 24 feet over the outstretched defender. Taylor would go on from there to dominate the rest of the game, scoring eight points in the final 5:35.
Where to improve | Slow Starts
Northwestern’s first field goal came more than four minutes into the game, after starting in a 9-0 hole. Coming of off a game where they started out down 18-2, it must have been apparent to Coach Bill Carmody that it was essential they come out of the gates quicker. The lead eventually was stretched to 13 in the first half, forcing the ‘Cats to make a resilient run to come close to prevailing over. Carmody, however, made good adjustments during halftime, making sure the ‘Cats tightened up on defense and hit the glass harder, but the first-half deficit was too much to overcome.