Bill Carmody was quick to point out the Wildcats' greatest woes from a 74-65 loss to Butler. It was no secret to the 7,213 fans who filled Welsh-Ryan Arena, either. Northwestern's senior star power has been nonexistent, and it proved to be costly once again.
Drew Crawford and Jared Swopshire combined to go 1-of-14 from the field and compiled just nine points. Without their presence in the stat sheet, Northwestern was lucky to keep the game close.
"The staff has to figure out how to get the two senior guys into the offense," said Carmody, pointing to their struggles.
Entering the game, Butler was ready to counter Northwestern's attack. Coach Brad Stevens was familiar with Swopshire from his days with Louisville, and had studied up on Crawford. The Bulldogs continued to force the two into uncomfortable shots, keeping them quiet throughout the evening.
Crawford's struggles are concerning because he was supposed to carry Northwestern's offense. Instead, he has just been along for the ride.
"Drew will be OK," sophomore point guard Dave Sobolewski said. "Obviously, it's great for us when Drew's playing well. Even with a down night, we were a couple plays away from winning the game."
Northwestern can thank Sobolewski for giving it a chance. He finished with 21 points and posted 6-of-11 from the field.
However, his night ended early after a questionable charge call marked his fifth foul, leaving him visibly frustrated. Northwestern was without its top source of production.
"That's just how it goes sometimes," he said of the fifth foul.
The tide turned at the beginning of the second half. Guard Alex Barlow stole a pass and scored an easy fastbreak layup for his only two points of the night.
"He's just a tough kid," Brad Stevens said of Barlow. "He figures out ways to do that stuff."
Shortly after, Rotnei Clarke connected on a long three-pointer, extending the lead to eight points. It put momentum on the Bulldogs' side. Northwestern was forced to dig out of a hole, but Butler stifled any comeback attempt the Wildcats could muster.
"It's a good defensive team," Carmody said, crediting Butler.
Butler was led by center Andrew Smith, who paced his team in the second half with 19 points and seven rebounds.
"It's a good lesson for two freshman centers," said Carmody, pointing to Alex Olah and Mike Turner. "All he did was out-strength and out-hustle them—knocked them around a bit. They weren't up for the challenge."
Following a Wildcat win over Baylor where everything went right, nothing was working on Saturday. There was no zest carried over and Butler took advantage.
"I thought we came ready to play," said Reggie Hearn, who recorded 13 points. "We just allowed them to out-physical us, especially in the second half."
The loss stings, and the pain will last for a while. It's finals week at Northwestern, meaning the Cats must wait nine days for their next game.