Before we get into tonight's 73-59 win over previously unbeaten Florida State, I must regretfully report that there's no "Carmody's Greatest Fits" DVD as I hoped for in Monday's wrapup of the UC Riverside win.
In that vein, however, it apparently would have been great to have had a camera or a tape recorder rolling during halftime when the Wildcats found themselves trailing 36-33 to the 'Noles.
As a learned man who knows how to use more five-syllable words properly than any basketball coach has a right to, Carmody isn't big on the swearing. But after watching his guys look like feeble wusses in the first half against FSU's shot-blocking monsters -- Ivan Peljusic termed it "like real men and kids" -- Carmody quoted the George Carlin textbook from memory.
"I didn't have to consult with coaches or anything like that," Carmody said. "It was the human element. It wasn't basketball. No X's and O's or anything like that...just, 'let's go after this a little bit.' "
That NU did. Not only did the Wildcats hold Florida State to 23 second-half points, they forced 11 turnovers and won the boards against a team that was taller, quicker, faster, jumpier...any adjective you want to coin.
--Huge bench play: I'll start with junior backup Jeff Ryan because I couldn't squeeze him into the game story. Because freshman John Shurna didn't quite play the defense Carmody wanted, Ryan went in for Shurna a minute into the second half with FSU leading 39-36. In 14 second-half minutes, the slender Ryan chipped in 6 points and 5 rebounds to finish with 9 points and a career-high 8 rebounds.
Ivan Peljusic, meanwhile, had been one of the feeble dudes in the first half when he short-armed (Carmody referred to it as "T-Rex arms") a few layups out of fear. But after the break, he poured in 10 points in 15 minutes as his quickness was a good match for FSU on both ends.
(EDIT: I forgot this terrific quote from FSU coach Leonard Hamilton about Peljusic. With a wistful chuckle, he noted: "We watched him in warmups: 'This guy's got a little more skill than what the scouting report showed.")
--Senior guard Craig Moore: Dude was talking stuff...throwing sly elbows...nailing 3-pointers...playing 12 minutes at the point in the first half because Juice Thompson had 2 early fouls...and refusing to lose. He played all but 6 seconds Wednesday night -- and he sat out then because he required medical attention after getting clipped in the leg (with no foul called) on a layup.
--Junior forward Kevin Coble: If he delivers more all-around games like this one, Northwestern isn't going to stop being good any time soon. Playing just as hard defensively as offensively -- which the coaches have preached non-stop -- Coble rang up 15 points, a game-high-tying 8 rebounds, a career-high-tying 7 assists, a team-high 2 blocks and a team-high-tying 2 steals.
Carmody even alluded to how good NU's offense can be when Coble passes the ball as well as he did Wednesday night. I'd give you the quote, but Carmody's voice is kind of faint on my tape recorder.
--Rebounding: Northwestern outboarded FSU 41-33, which included 18 offensive rebounds that somehow led to just 5 second-chance points.
--Free throws: Not only did the Wildcats make just 18 of 31 from the line, they blew three consecutive 1-and-1 opportunities in the second half when Florida State made a bit of a run. Craig Moore said all of the Wildcats need to come in on their day off (Thursday) and put up a bunch of free throws.
--Official Tom O'Neill: He's one of my favorite referees because he almost never acts uptight...nor does he give in under the weight of a wild home crowd. But near the end of the first half, he missed a call when Florida State's Deividas Dulkys jumped Coble's back on a missed free throw. He awarded the ball out of bounds to FSU, which peeved Carmody. When the resulting possession led to a layup and a legitimate foul, Carmody barked again and O'Neill T'd him up. Uche Echefu wrapped up his 5-point play to give FSU a 36-29 lead with 1:13 to go, but the Cats got a few calls the rest of the half as they got within 36-33 at the break.
--NU freshmen: There's no shame in riding the roller-coaster during your first full month as a college player, but all four of NU's big frosh struggled. After John Shurna hit a 3-pointer on NU's first possession of the game and then fed Kyle Rowley in the post for a lefty layup four minutes in, it was pretty much downhill from there.
Luka Mirkovic played 1 minute, put up a weak shot and scored 1 point.
Davide Curletti played 2 minutes with nothing but zeroes.
Shurna played 20 minutes and finished with 8 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 turnovers...and the aforementioned poor defense at the second half's outset.
Rowley, who didn't have a good matchup with FSU's lanky and quick big men, had 3 points, 2 rebounds and 3 turnovers in 16 minutes.
That's why Carmody told his veterans, in an lesson meant more for this season than this game, "Look, it's up to you guys. And (the freshmen) will come along."
--Coach Joey Meyer was in the house doing some scouting for the L.A. Clippers. He was one of 10 or so NBA scouts in the house.
--Former Crane High School coach Anthony Longstreet, wearing his Crane jacket, showed up with a friend. He shook hands and chatted with FSU coach Leonard Hamilton after his post-game presser.
--Tribune sportswriter and true friend Neil Milbert, typifying the professionalism he displayed throughout his 40 years at the Trib, showed up to cover the final event of his illustrious career despite being laid off earlier in the day.
Because the game started so late, he wrote three different stories for three editions and then headed off into the sunset.
It's been fun working with you the last several years, Neil. Among other things, I'm gonna miss your perpetual smile and congenial stories...