- Scott Powers, Reporter
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Hulls had eight 3-pointers, and as the top piece to Northwestern’s 1-3-1 zone and the team’s lone playing senior, Nash pointed the finger at himself for Hulls’ career day.
“I told the coaches I felt like it was my fault,” Nash said. “I wasn’t more aggressive as I have been in the 1-3-1 or getting on guys after his first couple 3s. It’s kind of personal now. I don’t plan on letting it happen again.”
On Thursday, Nash and the Wildcats get their shot at revenge as Northwestern and Indiana square off again. This time, there is more at stake with their matchup being one of three first-round Big Ten Tournament games on the day.
Northwestern has had success shutting down Hulls before. In their first meeting in early February, Hulls was shut out on his three 3-point attempts.
The key to that success again is talking more, according to Nash.
“If we talk, he’s not going to get those shots the next game,” Nash said. “That’s a guarantee.”
With Nash facing what could be the final games of his career, he is motivated to finish strong. Nash has had a memorable senior season, putting up career numbers, but in recent weeks his play has dipped. In the Indiana loss, he shot 1 for 11 from the field.
“I told the coaches the other day I haven’t been happy with my play at the tail end of the season,” Nash said. “I feel like I’ve been playing my worst basketball. I’m trying to focus on the next game, the next practice, trying to make myself better and put the shots down that I didn’t against Indiana.
“Maybe the senior thing is getting to me, thinking about it too much instead of just going out and playing basketball. Knowing that this is my last postseason, I got to take it as it is.”
The Wildcats have been most successful this season when they’ve had three players producing. Michael Thompson and John Shurna have consistently been two of those players. With freshman Drew Crawforddealing with some back issues, Northwestern coach Bill Carmody especially needs Nash to be that third weapon.
“He knows,” Carmody said. “He realizes where he is. I’m sure he wants to have a good showing because he didn’t play well the other night. He’s a competitor, that’s for sure.”
The shooter: All 83 of Iowa senior Devan Bawinkel’s shots this season have been 3-pointers. Dating back to last season, Bawinkel, who is from Winnebago, Ill., has gone 38 games without attempting a 2-point field goal. His last 2-pointer came in the second half of Iowa’s game against Wisconsin on Feb. 11, 2009. In his two years at Iowa since transferring from Highland Community College in Freeport, Ill., Bawinkel has made 83 of 222 3-pointers and 1 of 5 2-pointers.
Bringing more to the Battle: Minnesota isn’t taking No. 11-seed Penn State lightly headed into Thursday’s game, and it has good reason not to as the Nittany Lions are playing their best basketball of the season. During Penn State’s recent success -- winning three of its past six and losing by less than five points in two other games -- Talor Battle, the team’s star, has led the way. He has scored in double digits in the last 14 consecutive games.
The difference is the play of junior forward Jeff Brooks and sophomore guard Chris Babb. After not scoring in double figures since Dec. 9, Brooks got back on track against Northwestern with 12 points on Feb. 17. Since then, he’s had three other games of 11 points or more and the other two were of eight and nine points. Penn State is 6-1 when Brooks scores in double figures this season.
Babb has also turned it on in the past few weeks. Beginning with that same Northwestern game, he has scored 14 or more points four times. In his previous 24 games, he had done that in just five games. He’s also hit 19 3-pointers in the past six games.
Princeton power: Carmody has heard so many times over the years that the Princeton-style offense he runs hampers his teams’ ability to score. Finally he can laugh at the critics as Northwestern scored a league-best 68.7 points per game during conference play. “If you guys ever say Princeton offense is slow down,” Carmody said while laughing. “Stay away from that stuff. Ha, Michigan State slow- down [offense], I hate that.” The Wildcats surge in offseason has mostly to do with the number of 3-pointers they have made. Northwestern connected on 293 3s this season, which ranks fifth in the country, and attempted 806, which was good for sixth.
NBA prospects not named Turner: Wisconsin’s Jon Leuer has been one of the conference’s most dominating players recently. After missing nine games with a broken left wrist, Leuer is starting to look like his old self again. In his past two games -- his fourth and fifth since his return -- he scored a total of 38 points on 16-of-22 shots. As he showed against Illinois in the regular season-finale, the 6-foot-10 junior can score in a variety of ways. He can shoot from deep. He’s comfortable in the post and has a variety of moves that lead to short jumpers or layups. He also can put it on the ground and finish above the rim. Give him another season, and he will be leading the pack for conference player of the year.
What bench?:Ohio State coach Thad Matta doesn't worry that his starters will get tired. He has rarely turned to his bench during the final stretch of the season. Against Michigan State late in the season, Kyle Madsen was the only bench player to see time. On Feb. 24 again Penn State, two bench players combined for 15 minutes and zero points. A game later against three players combined for 16 minutes and zero points. Matta has depended heavily on his starters for most of the season -- Evan Turner(34.6 minutes per game), William Bufford (33.0), Jon Diebler (36.6), David Lighty (35.9) and Dallas Lauderdale (25.5). Lauderdale’s stats are deceiving because he came off the bench early in the season. He has played 29 or minutes in five of his last seven games.
Northwestern is the closest team to Ohio State in pushing its starters. The Wildcats’ five starters all average more than 26 minutes with Nash (34.5 minutes), Shurna (36.4) and Thompson (37.8) leading the way. “They’re 20 years old,” Carmody said. “They probably have pulses rates of like 36. They can do it.”
State of freshmen: Illinois high school products Illinois guard D.J. Richardson (Peoria Central) and Northwestern guard Crawford (Naperville Central) made the Big Ten All-Freshman Team this week, but they weren’t the only local products to have a successful first year in the conference. Cully Payne, a Schaumburg graduate, was Iowa’s starting point guard this season and averaged 8.1 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists while playing 33.3 minutes a game. He was most impressive against Michigan late in the season when he had 13 points, four rebounds, seven assists and just one turnover. Shooting guard Brandon Paul, a former Warren star and last year’s Mr. Basketball, contributed throughout the season for Illinois. He averaged 8.1 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 0.9 rebounds. He had four games of 17 or more points.
Northwestern's Jeremy Nash looking for second chance against Indiana.