I remember when I was a child and read "The Tortoise and the Hare." The hare was racing the tortoise and ended up falling asleep before the finish line. The tortoise kept racing, didn't give up, kept on pushing, and eventually won the race. Slow and steady wins the race, my elementary school teacher would say to the class.
I look at Northwestern basketball program, and I see similar strides from the Wildcats as the tortoise took in his journey to be a winner. Northwestern goal is to make the NCAA tournament. Watching the games this past week, I continue to see improvement and this team has so much upside and potential to be one of the best teams in the Big Ten. However, like the tortoise Northwestern has to continue believing, working hard, and never giving up on their goals or each other.
Northwestern defeated 12th-ranked Minnesota last week. I remember broadcasting the first meeting between those two teams in Minneapolis. I thought the Wildcats played tremendous defensively, but they couldn't buy a basket, shooting terrible from the field. This past Wednesday was a different story. Northwestern played great defensively and made shots.
Jared Swopshire played well and his leadership role as of late has been wonderful. Swopshire finished the game with 16 points, eight rebounds, and two steals. Reggie Hearn, who made clutch baskets down the stretch, contributed with 13 points and five rebounds.
The Wildcats were down double digits early in the game. The Gophers tried beating the Wildcats physically in the paint. Trevor Mbakwe (14 points, 16 rebounds, and 3 blocks) was a handful for Northwestern. However the 1-3-1 zone gave the fighting Wildcats momentum and at the end of the game. Slow and steady, the Wildcats hung around and never quit. That effort is what I believe we will see consistently from this Northwestern team in the future.
Saturday in Nebraska, the Wildcats just got outplayed, as the Cornhuskers made plays the entire game. Even when Northwestern started to get a little momentum, Nebraska would make a big shot or come up with a steal on defense. The Wildcats played hard, it’s just you must give credit where credit is due. The Cornhuskers played well on their home court and came away with the victory.
I was really impressed with Dave Sobolewski, who came out of a little shooting slump to pace Northwestern with 21 points and 6 rebounds, and Jared Swopshire, who finished the game with a double-double.
Being a former player, I’m able to offer insight from within the team, so that one can understand what it’s like being a player. I also suggest ways in which the team can improve. Watching this Northwestern team play, I can see light at the end of the tunnel for this program. Northwestern will make the NCAA tournament. However, it’s a process from the players to work hard and be responsible off the court, effort from the coaching staff, and continuous support from our fans.
Slow and steady wins the race. You can even say the little engine that could, but I will save that for another article.
Jitim Young was a standout for Northwestern from 2000-2004. A Chicago native, he now serves as color commentator for NU basketball on WGN Radio 720.