Northwestern enters 2012-13 season with added size


Northwestern enters 2012-13 season with added size

ROSEMONT When asked how his basketball team will improve its rebounding, Northwestern coach Bill Carmody responded with his own question.

Just throw out some raw steaks on the court? What are you going to do? he said during a press conference Thursday at Big Ten Media Day.

You can do rebounding drills forever. You gotta get the ball. The guys have to go after it. Thats all I can tell you.

The Wildcats could improve their rebounding this season after adding size and physicality through recruiting. And their frontcourt is considered a strength, despite the loss of the schools all-time leading scorer, John Shurna.

Thats exactly what we needed. We needed some rebounding and inside presence. Im the only normal-sized guy weve got now, guard Dave Sobolewski said. Its a lot of fun playing with bigger guys. Seeing the Big Ten last year as a freshman and seeing how big those other teams are, I know this is exactly what we needed to make that next step.

Northwestern added two 7-footers, 7-foot-2 Chier Ajou, who is the cousin of the Chicago Bulls Luol Deng, and 275-pound Alex Olah. Other newcomers are 6-foot-8 Louisville transfer Jared Swopshire, 6-foot-7 Kale Abrahamson and 6-foot-6 Sanjay Lumpkin.

With the newcomers, the Wildcats have the potential to quality for the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history, Carmody said.

As valuable as John was, when he was down in the low post, he got knocked around a lot, Carmody said. These guys are stronger, maybe not as talented, definitely not in the same way. But that interior will help our outside shooting. We wont take as many threes as weve done in the past. Itll help if our guys down there can score inside.

Carmody noted Olah, a freshman center, has been impressive in practice recently. Olah has been receptive to coaching and doesnt need to be a star right away alongside the Wildcats veterans, Carmody said.

Hell only get better, Carmody said. Hes 7 feet, he can run, hes 275 pounds. He can actually make a shot at the top.

The Wildcats also added size and experience with the arrival of Swopshire, who averaged 3.3 points and 2.8 rebounds as a reserve for Louisville last season. As a sophomore, he averaged 7.5 points and 6.1 rebounds. He missed the 2010-11 season due to injury. Hes a graduate student at Northwestern.

Hes got really long arms, Sobolewski said. He moves well. He runs the floor well, and he finishes around the rim pretty well. Im fully confident hell be able to bring a new physical nature to our team, and hes already been showing that in practice.

The added size and physicality could help the Wildcats shore up their issues last season. Northwestern went 19-14, 8-10 in the Big Ten, and qualified for the NIT.

With these new guys at center, the frontcourt is looking great, Sobolewski said. Its something we didnt have last year. We have a really good backcourt and our wings are strong as well. I dont see any major weakness with our team. Last year, our weakness was our defense and rebounding, mainly rebounding. We gave up too many second and third chances, but with our size and physicality, thatll really be an advantage for us.

Blown out by Iowa, Maryland stumbles to third straight loss


Blown out by Iowa, Maryland stumbles to third straight loss

It's been a tough week for the teams at the top of the Big Ten standings.

Maryland and Wisconsin both lost earlier this week, and Purdue lost on Saturday afternoon. Saturday night, the horrors continued for the Terps, who suffered their third straight defeat in a blowout 83-69 loss to the visiting Iowa Hawkeyes in College Park.

Maryland's last lead came near the midway point of the first half before Iowa sprinted away on a 22-10 run to build a double-digit lead, an advantage that grew as big as 22 in the final minutes. All in all, the Hawkeyes knocked down 16 3-pointers. The Terps weren't too far behind with 11 deep balls of their own, but they shot just 40.7 percent in the second half, unable to keep up.

The high-scoring Hawkeyes were powered by freshman Jordan Bohannon, who scored 24 points on a whopping eight made 3-pointers. Fellow freshman Tyler Cook joined him with a 20-point night, finishing with 21 points, while Peter Jok and Nicholas Baer each ended with 11.

Iowa, not completely out of the NCAA tournament realm of possibility, helped its shaky case greatly with this victory.

Maryland, meanwhile, is a lock to make the field of 68 teams, but much like the other presumed conference powers, its struggles are hitting at the most inopportune time.

The Terps have lost five of their last seven and three of their last four at home. Back-to-back home losses this week against Minnesota and Iowa have featured big days for opposing offenses. Prior to the Hawkeyes' performance Saturday, the Golden Gophers dropped 89 points on 50-percent shooting.

The woes of Maryland — plus those of Purdue and Wisconsin — set up not just an interesting final week of the regular season but an interesting Big Ten Tournament that could feature a dark horse like Minnesota entering as the favorite. A surging team like Michigan might be more capable of making a deep run than the top three seeds given their recent struggles.

The Terps will have as good a chance as any to make noise in that tournament and the one that follows throughout the month of March. Winnable games against Rutgers and Michigan State remain, but they're on a bad stretch right now, one that should only elevate the panic after Saturday's defeat.

Discomfort sidelines White Sox infielder Brett Lawrie

Discomfort sidelines White Sox infielder Brett Lawrie

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The White Sox held Brett Lawrie out Saturday after he reported discomfort in the same left leg that sidelined him for the final 2 1/2 months of 2016.

The second baseman has been a full participant the entire spring until he informed manager Rick Renteria what he was experiencing Saturday. 

"We're going to reevaluate him tomorrow and see where he's at," Renteria said. "He didn't feel quite right, and so he was in there earlier today getting treatment. We'll reevaluate tomorrow and make a determination where we're at in terms of trying to set some parameters for how we move forward."

A confusing, tricky series of injuries that Lawrie blamed on wearing orthotics limited him to 94 games last season. He hit the disabled list on July 22 and didn't discover the cause until after the season ended. But Lawrie reported to camp feeling healthy once again and has participated at 100 percent until this point, Renteria said.

"It's been good," Renteria said. "Everything has been clean. There have been no notifications anything had been amiss. He just woke up this morning and felt it. So we're going to be very cautious, take it a day at a time, reevaluate it and see where we're at."