Chicago Sun-Times
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March 2012 Archives

Bill Carmody announcement set for Thursday

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            The Sun-Times has learned that Northwestern has called a teleconference for 10 a.m. today with athletic director Jim Phillips and men's basketball coach Bill Carmody, presumably to announce that Carmody will remain as the Wildcats coach.

            Carmody had been under intense scrutiny toward the tail end of this season, after the Wildcats were an NCAA tournament bubble team and then lost to Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.

            Carmody, who has one year left on his contract, guided the Wildcats to the National Invitation Tournament, where they advanced to the second round before losing at Washington on March 16.

Northwestern softball team meets Joe Girardi

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Northwestern's softball team had an exclusive opportunity to meet Yankees manager Joe Girardi at a spring training game in Florida Tuesday night.

Girardi, an NU grad, was a three-time All-Big Ten catcher and a 1985 All-American. Girardi was also an engineering major at NU and graduated in 1986.

Girardi met the Wildcats on the Yankees' practice field and gave a 20-minute speech on the keys to success and then held a question and answer session.

His favorite Northwestern memory involved three-time All-American pitcher Lisa Ishikawa, who led NU to three Women's College World Series and who graduated the year after Girardi. People always asked if he batted against her, and he said, "No way! I didn't want to embarrass myself." 

He talked about how much Evanston has changed since he was in school and about how much he loved NU.

Girardi offered up this nugget of advice before the team left: "In sports and in life, you will always struggle at some point. Just stick together and look out for each other."

The Wildcats also asked about former NU pitcher George Kontos, a Yankees pitcher. Girardi said Kontos had been out with a lat strain, but Girardi put him in the spring exhibition in the eighth inning. Kontos' appearance got a huge ovation from the Wildcats' softball team. 

Northwestern golfers have reason to smile

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After the misery of watching Northwestern lose to Washington in an NIT second-round game Friday night in Seattle, the Wildcats at least had something to smile about -- on the golf course.

Three former Wildcat golfers had stellar weekends.

Luke Donald got his No. 1 world ranking back with a playoff victory in the PGA Tour's Transitions Championship. The win puts Donald ahead of Roy McIroy, who had nudged Donald out of the top spot a few months ago.

David Lipsky, a 2011 NU grad, won the Asian Tour. Lipsky is a rookie on the Asian Tour.

And Dillon Dougherty leads the money list after two events on the Golfweek National Pro Tour. Doughtery won the L.A. Open over the weekend.

Northwestern's wrestling team placed ninth at the NCAA championships in St. Louis Saturday. And the Wildcats have two All-Americans in redshirt freshman Mike McMullan, who was third in the heavyweight division, and redshirt junior Jason Welch, who was fourth at 157 pounds. McMullan was a 10-seed and he ended up defeating the No. 3 seed, Clayton Jack of Oregon State. Welch's victory gave him a second consecutive All-American honor.

Welch and McMullan also give the Wildcats two All-Americans in six of the last seven years. And as a team, NU has finished in the top 15 at the national championships in seven of the previous eight years. 

Northwestern wants better memories of Washington

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           Travelling to Washington may bring back bad memories for Northwestern. The Wildcats were a game away from the National Invitation Tournament's Final Four at Madison Square Garden, when they dropped an overtime contest at Washington State.

            Now, the Wildcats are only in the NIT's second round and they find themselves making another trip out west. NU will play top-seeded Washington in Seattle Friday (9, ESPNU, 560-AM). The winner will advance to the quarterfinals and play the winner of Oregon/Iowa.

            "Those are two different years and two different games," Drew Crawford said.

            And if the Wildcats (19-13) can knock off Washington (22-10) they will have their third consecutive 20-win season. But then that begs the question: Is that enough to save coach Bill Carmody's job?

            Carmody has one year left on his contract and athletic director Jim Phillips will evaluate Carmody after the season.

            The Wildcats barely hung on to beat Akron in the first round Tuesday, eeking out a 76-74 victory at Welsh-Ryan Arena. NU blew a 15-point lead and allowed the Zips to get back in the game quickly.

            NU can't afford to do that against top-seeded Washington. If the Wildcats, a four seed, find themselves trailing the Huskies they need to get the ball in John Shurna's hands. The senior forward surpassed the 2,000 career point mark against Akron, becoming the 27th player in Big Ten history to hit that point total.

            "At the same time, we want the best shot for the team," Shurna said. "If Drew has a hot hand, then we want to keep feeding him as long as we could. That's how it goes. It's a feel for the game."

            The Huskies were spurned by the NCAA selection committee after having won the Pac-12 regular season title. Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar hopes this tournament run can change people's perceptions about the weak Pac-12.

            Compared to the Big Ten, which sent six teams to the NCAA tournament, the Pac-12 sent two teams in Colorado and California. But California lost to South Florida 65-54 in a play-in game Wednesday night.

            "It may be hard to change the total perception [of the league], because people's opinions of a particular conference are formed by January," Romar said. "And then it's hard to displace that label."

Kyle Prater cleared for Northwestern spring ball

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            Northwestern wide receiver and USC transfer Kyle Prater received a university waiver Thursday to participate in spring football when it resumes March 26.

            But Prater is still waiting for an NCAA waiver which would allow him to play in the 2012 season. Because Prater transferred from USC, he may have to sit out a year. However, NU coach Pat Fitzgerald has said that Prater may get the waiver based on his reason of transferring: to be closer to his family in Maywood.

            The former five-star wide receiver and Proviso West product may look at running back Amir Carlisle as a good omen, though. Carlisle, a USC transfer, received his NCAA waiver Thursday to play at Notre Dame in 2012.

            If Prater's waiver goes through, he and quarterback Kain Colter can team up for just as productive and explosive quarterback-receiver tandem as Dan Persa and Jeremy Ebert were the past two years. At 6-5, Prater's long arms will prove to be very valuable in grabbing passes away from opposing defensive backs.

Northwestern to play Stanford in 2015, 2016

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Northwestern announced Wednesday that the Wildcats' home-and-home football series with Stanford has been finalized for 2015 and 2016. The two schools will also play a four-game  series with Stanford from 2019 to 2022, which was announced in April 2011.

The teams first game will be Sept. 5, 2015 in Evanston.


What ifs surround JerShon Cobb

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What if guard JerShon Cobb had been healthy all season and had not missed 12 games with hip, back and leg pain?

Maybe the Wildcats would be in the NCAA tournament right now?

It's a bold thought, but the way Cobb has played lately can make you wonder, "What if?"

Cobb was one of three players to score in double figures in a 76-74 NIT opening round win over Akron Tuesday night. Cobb knocked in 19 points on 8 of 10 shooting and proclaimed himself 100 percent healthy after the game.

"I don't think about the past and you just have to move along," Cobb said. "I think [the assorted injuries] were a setback of the hip surgery because after my hip started feeling better, I got a back bulge and that's what set me out for a couple more games."

Against Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament, Cobb scored a career-high 24 points in the Wildcats' 75-68 overtime loss. And Cobb's defense was the difference in a 70-66 come-from-behind victory at Iowa to close out the regular season March 3.

"I feel more comfortable on the court now and my teammates have been behind me the whole time," Cobb said. "I'm still not where I need to be, but I'm working."

"Even last year he got hurt and missed the last [five] games and he couldn't do too much," coach Bill Carmody said. "He's really comfortable in the low post."

Cobb said there was a natural letdown to playing in the NIT after missing out on an NCAA bid Sunday night. With the Akron win behind them, the Wildcats head west and will play top-seeded Washington Friday in Seattle at 9.

Is it the NIT or the NCAAs for Northwestern?

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A sullen Bill Carmody didn't know what to say after the Wildcats' lost to Minnesota 75-68 in overtime Thursday at the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis. The first-round exit for NU all but puts the dagger in any hope of making the NCAA tournament.

"I told our guys that it is a body of work and a few years ago they said the last 10 games were important and now it's not true. We'll put our resume out. It's hard, it's disappointing."

Drew Crawford, who had ice on his feet, knees and right shoulder, sat with his eyes closed in a silent locker room at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Crawford had two scares in the second half against Minnesota, both times going up for a rebound and falling awkwardly on his elbows.

Watching Crawford grimace at the pain and shock of hitting the floor so hard was probably a metaphor for how the Wildcats felt in that loss.

"It was a game we needed to win but we won a lot of good games this year," Crawford said. "The thing we do is focus on the next game we have at hand. Whether that is an NCAA tournament game or an NIT game, we want to go out and play to win. We want to be in the tournament but we can't guarantee anything."

Dan Persa's thoughts on his football future

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Former Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa was one of 10 ex-Wildcats from the 2011 team who participated in the program's annual Pro Timing Day at the Nicolet Center.

Persa, who has spent time training in Tennessee since the Wildcats last played in the Meineke Car Care Bowl Dec. 31, was pleased with his performance.

"It went well, I thought I ran pretty well, obviously I thought we threw the ball well between me, Brew [Andrew Brewer], Jeremy [Ebert] and Drake [Dunsmore]," Persa said. "I thought we all did really well. It's a grind, you're working out twice a day, talking to different teams, talking to your agent a lot."

Persa wanted to prove he is nearly 100 percent since rupturing his right Achilles tendon back in November 2010 and suffering a strained right calf muscle last summer. That setback forced Persa to miss the Wildcats' first three games.

"It's been fun. I've been looking forward to this for a while. I've had some really good times and some really bad times, but it's all worth it to show what you can do on the field."

Northwestern beat Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena Saturday 70-66. After the game, coach Bill Carmody stressed how important that game was for the Wildcats and their chances of making the NCAA tournament.

The players agreed.

"It puts us in great position to be considered for the NCAAs," guard JerShon Cobb said. "I think we're going into the Big Ten tournament wanting to win it. It's not just winning a game or just making the NCAA tournament. We think we are a good enough team to win the Big Ten."

But not long after the Wildcats were enjoying the fruits of their labor on the way home to Evanston, word came out that DePaul pummeled Seton Hall 86-58 at Allstate Arena. It's not the greatest news for NU, because the Wildcats' November victory over Seton Hall was considered a "signature win." Now, not so much, considering that DePaul is 12-18 overall and 3-15 in the Big East. The Wildcats now have only one victory over a top-50 team: Michigan State on Jan. 14.

* John Shurna officially won the Big Ten scoring title, edging out Penn State's Tim Frazier. Shurna ended the regular season with a 19.8 scoring average to Frazier's 18.8. Crawford finished fifth in scoring, averaging 16.4 points per game.

Northwestern used a 17-0 run to come back from a 15-point deficit in the first half against Iowa Saturday, and now lead the Hawkeyes 42-35 at halftime in the regular-season finale at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

During that run, the Wildcats got seven points from Drew Crawford, who leads the Wildcats so far with 12 points and three steals.

Iowa went out to a 23-9 lead on Northwestern midway through the first half amidst an 18-2 run.

If Northwestern wins, that's doesn't guarantee them anything in terms of an NCAA tournament bid. But the winner of this game will be the No. 7 seed in next week's Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis, and will face the No. 10 seed. The loser will play Illinois.

Northwestern falls behind early at Iowa

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So far, this is not good.

Iowa is out to a 20-7 lead on Northwestern midway through the first half at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes are on a 15-0 run.

If Northwestern wins, that's doesn't guarantee them anything in terms of an NCAA tournament bid. But the winner of this game will be the No. 7 seed in next week's Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis, and will face the No. 10 seed. The loser will play Illinois.

Pat Fitzgerald sees a new team, hungry attitude

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Pat Fitzgerald reached for the Meineke Car Care Bowl program and thumbed to the Wildcats' season-in-review section.

Despite Fitzgerald's (and his staff's) philosophy of "flushing" losses in a 24-hour period, he did point to a few games from the 2011 season that were winnable. And maybe they still stick in Fitzgerald's mind and bother him a bit.

"I look at a lot of missed opportunites," Fitzgerald said as he checked off the five consecutive losses from a season ago.

"You look at some of those games, especially starting early in the season. Very easily we should have won the Army game, the game in Champaign [against Illinois], Michigan, Iowa, Penn State; that run there we could have won any one of those five games. That could have been a real catalyst to a special year."

But spring football is like spring training: a rebirth and a renewal akin to the season itself. Fitzgerald doesn't want to compare this team to last year's or the year before, but he does see something different in each group. The 2012 edition is no exception.

"This first phase from January through now you get to learn what that early personality [of the team] is going to be," Fitzgerald said. "I see a real hunger in this group. They've been working dilligently to work together and form great chemistry, which I'm very pleased with.

"I get a sense of hunger in them. They've had a tremendous attitude and spirit about them. Our goal was to bring this team together sooner."

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This page is an archive of entries from March 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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