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So far, Northwestern gets a flailing grade in Big Ten

NU’s Dave Sobolewski (left) Alex Marcotullio are feeling effects depleted roster. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

NU’s Dave Sobolewski (left) and Alex Marcotullio are feeling the effects of a depleted roster. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

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Updated: February 7, 2013 6:42AM

Coaches and players were searching for answers after No.  2 Michigan outclassed and overwhelmed Northwestern 94-66 on Thursday night in a Big Ten opener that felt more like an exhibition.

The Wildcats have just started their conference season, and coach Bill Carmody already is reaching for the reset button heading into Sunday’s game against No. 9 Minnesota (13-1, 1-0 Big Ten).

Carmody admitted Thursday that he should have played more of a slow-down game against Michigan and will overhaul his offense to that end in time for the Golden Gophers.

‘‘What we have to do as a staff is coach these young guys and coach them hard and improve ourselves and get better at everything and see if we can do better than we did [against Michigan],’’ Carmody said.

As if it weren’t enough finding new ways to plug five freshmen and redshirt freshmen into the rotation because of JerShon Cobb’s academic suspension and injuries to Drew Crawford (shoulder) and Reggie Hearn (ankle), now Carmody must dial down the offensive pace to give the Wildcats (9-5, 0-1) a better chance to compete.

All of this must be accomplished while his team plays five of its first seven Big Ten games against teams currently ranked in the top 11 in the country.

‘‘I trust what he’s going to do, and I definitely think it’s a quick option here,’’ point guard Dave Sobolewski said. ‘‘We took a lot of quick shots we didn’t need to take — not necessarily bad shots — but we can’t start jacking shots up if we seem to be open.’’

Carmody called for more leadership from his veterans, who need to shoulder the load and set the standard for how younger players must approach their roles.

Northwestern should benefit from having senior guard and leading scorer Hearn back in the lineup Sunday. Hearn hasn’t practiced since twisting his ankle in a loss to Stanford on Dec. 21 but warmed up with the team before the game Thursday.

‘‘We keep messing up the same things,’’ Sobolewski said. ‘‘We keep harping on it in practice. Eventually we have to start doing the things the coaches get on us about. We keep messing up the same things in the 1-3-1 and missing assignments and falling asleep on defense. A lot of it is going to come down to heart and how much we want it.’’

Minnesota opened its conference schedule with a 76-63 victory over Michigan State.

Even before Thursday’s loss, Carmody knew his team was likely to struggle early, given the circumstances.

‘‘You’re playing five guys who are freshmen and redshirt freshmen and have never played in the Big Ten,’’ he said. ‘‘There are going to be some bad times, but can they get better and better so by midseason they’re pretty solid? I’ve had freshman here do pretty well in the past.’’

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