I was there when the season ended, when the Northwestern Men’s Basketball Team lost in overtime to Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament. I became The Underwhelming Hulk, a lanky spectacled brainless creature that breathed in air and breathed out fury. Something deep and important in the very back of my soul told me to throw half-filled Sprite cups and ripped-apart #SoboSwag signs as far as I could, away from our school-purchased and honestly terrible seats in the upper upper deck’s corner balcony into the better, emptier seats below.
I was there in Indianapolis, where I got into an embarrassing semi-physical altercation with three Golden Gopher alumni then fumed back to the bus, where we watched “The Sandlot” on little video screens through tears of regret. My girlfriend was there to see my transformation from “regular guy who cheered and yelled during a sporting event” to “insane guy who continued yelling way after the game ended and also maybe cried a little,” and I knew she would never see me the same way again. We broke up a month later.
Yet after all that, here I am, now single and therefore fully prepared to embarrass myself watching basketball yet again and write about it here for The Northwestern Chronicle.
If you were with us last year, you know that Northwestern’s all-time top scorer John Shurna has graduated and moved on to an uncertain future in maybe sorta playing some kind of professional basketball somewhere perhaps. Seniors Drew Crawford, Reggie Hearn, and Jared Swopshire (who just transferred here from Louisville) along with sophomore Dave Sobolewski are your four perimeter starters for 2012-13, and freshman Alex Olah seems to have beaten out Aaron “The Jewish Dwight Howard” Liberman and Chier “Literally Luol Deng’s 7-foot-2 Cousin” Ajou to start at center.
The team got started with a comfortable 79-49 win over Texas Southern which I was not yet being paid to go see, so I didn’t. I’ve got a history thesis to write! The Thursday night game was better anyway.
Thursday’s game was a rematch of one of the more interesting non-conference games last year, when the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils came to town, with the coach who’d stomp the court to distract Crawford while he shot threes (oddly, that coach isn’t around anymore!). For what was supposed to be a walkover team, MVSU was terrifying, led by a new junior college transfer named Davon Usher fresh off of putting up 19 points on Cincinnati in his Division I debut.
Saying Usher had a good night is like saying Nate Silver had an okay election. Davon sank seven of eight three-pointers and scored thirty-freaking-five points, plus you know, whatever, seven rebounds. He outscored the rest of his team combined. Plus, he’s got a hell of a Twitter. A few dudes in the student section tried to come up with some Usher jokes like “haha the celebrity singer guy Usher” to put Davon Usher off his game, but I mean how are you supposed to make a joke about a song called “Yeah”? Someone desperately asked if D. Usher had any “Confessions” for us, and all twenty people in the student section besides Hard Hat SuperFan Noah cringed, and that was the best Usher joke to be had.
This game exemplified the formula for a shock loss to a nobody school: One of their guys played out of his skin and the Wildcats did all the little things wrong. Sobo, Olah, and Hearn all had bad nights at the free throw line (the team shot 15 for 26), Crawford picked up two fouls in about two minutes both times he was let out onto the floor, and somehow Mike Turner managed to foul out in only fifteen minutes of playtime. Thus, the Wildcats spent the vast majority of the game only 0-4 points ahead of a SWAC school.
Nevertheless, Usher managed to make two bad turnovers with about four minutes left in the game which reversed the momentum for good, and the ‘Cats pulled ahead for an 81-68 win. Jared Swopshire and Reggie Hearn had almost identical games, leading the team with 22 and 23 points, respectively. It was a messy game, but new center Alex Olah looked promising on offense in the first half, and NU still has two more easy small schools visiting Welsh-Ryan Arena in the coming days in the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights on Sunday and the Delaware State Hornets on Tuesday.
It’s a fun team, so come on out and embarrass yourselves screaming at a small-conference school’s bench like I do. Just make sure you know how to pronounce our players’ names first, with my helpful audio guide.