Carmody: Wildcats close to being in must-win spot

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said Friday his team was close to facing a must-win scenario when it hosts Minnesota on Saturday.

The Wildcats are 15-10 overall and tied with Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa with a 5-8 record in the Big Ten.

ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has Northwestern among the last four teams out of his NCAA tournament bracket on Friday. The Wildcats have never appeared in the tournament.

“Is it a “must” game? It’s probably as close to it as you can say a game is,” Carmody said. “We have five games left and to get to .500 you have to win four of them. I think you got to win four out of five. Three out of five, I still think you’re in the mix, but I think four out of five would solidify it.”

Northwestern’s situation became more dire in the last week after the Wildcats lost at Purdue and at Indiana. The Wildcats have left themselves little room for error.

“You can say every game is a “must” game from here on out, especially late in February in Big Ten play, but especially going against a team we’re tied with in conference,” Northwestern senior John Shurna said. “Every game is a dogfight, especially defending home court. This is an important game for us.”

Minnesota had no trouble with Northwestern in their first meeting in Minneapolis on Jan. 22. The Golden Gophers jumped out to an early lead, were up 41-24 at halftime and won 75-52. Minnesota outrebounded Northwestern 35-20.

“I thought they really outplayed us,” Carmody said. “I think in all aspects we have to do a better job. I didn’t think we were as prepared as I thought going in. I think everything – offensively, defensively, backboards, just a lot of different things.”

After Saturday’s game with Minnesota, Northwestern still has home games against Michigan and Ohio State and road games with Penn State and Iowa.

“I think every game has had a feel of a must-win game for a while now,” Shurna said. “I think we just go out there with the mentality you have to leave it all on the floor.”