It’s been a long time since North Central College’s men’s basketball team has had a protracted slump, but that’s the position the Cardinals find themselves in these days.
Wednesday’s 62-50 loss to 13th-ranked Augustana was the Cardinals’ third straight CCIW loss and the fifth loss in their past six games overall. The loss dropped North Central’s record to 8-7 overall and 1-3 in the CCIW.
“It’s a combination of things,” NCC coach Todd Raridon said. “Our defense just hasn’t been very good. Consequently, that’s led to bad offense. We let one missed shot affect us defensively. Our team defense has been something we’ve hung our hat on the last few years, and our team defense is not very good.”
The Cardinals hung around in the first half, cutting the Augie lead to 27-25 on a Tyler Sutton fade-away late in the first half. But the Vikings (13-2, 3-1) scored the final four points of the first half and opened the second half on a 9-2 run to push the lead to 40-37. North Central was never able to threaten again.
All-American Landon Gamble was a beast for the Cardinals as usual, leading all scorers with 19 points and hauling down seven rebounds. Sutton took advantage of his second start of the season to score 11 points. Aside from that, however, offensive options were few and far between for NCC. The team’s leading scorer coming into the game, Vince Kmiec, and Jack Burchett scored five points apiece. They averaged 25.8 points per game combined coming into the game.
“I thought Landon played well,” Raridon said. “Tyler Sutton stepped up and made some big shots for us. We didn’t have that third, fourth, fifth guy like we had in the past that made plays for us and scored points for us or shut people down. We’re still a work in progress right now.”
Hunter Hill paced a balanced Augustana attack with 16 points.
The Cardinals employed their third different starting lineup in as many days, just trying to find a way to stop the skid.
“We’ve tried to work through a lot of things and we still have a long way to go,” Raridon said. “You hate to say that when you’re 15 games into it and you only have 10 games left in the regular season. We still have improvement, but we need to make quicker adjustments. The sooner the better.”