Before John Shurna shook off the flu to hit the game winner for Northwestern with 3.3 seconds left, the game between the Buckeyes and the Wildcats was a tale of two halves. In the first half, as feared by many Northwestern fans, Ohio State’s John Diebler seemed to hit every shot he took, actually 5-of-6, in order to out pace what was a seemingly hot shooting Wildcat team. It should also be noted, Northwestern had more turnover problems in the first half than they have in past games. Davide Curletti continued NU’s young centers’ problems with traveling and the other Wildcats struggled as well. It was clear, Northwestern’s center position matching up against OSU’s front line was seriously undermanned with Luka Mirkovic out sick. BJ Mullens and Dallas Lauderdale totally out manned the NU’s Kyle Rowley and Curletti. The other issue early on for the Wildcats was the foul trouble which took Michael Thompson to the bench. Thompson’s recent foul problems are a concern. Bill Carmody needs to find a way to get Thompson in a position on defense where he doesn’t have foul issues, as he is critical to NU’s success. This became clear in the second half.
In the second half, the game totally turned around. After Ohio State jumped ahead by 12, lighting seemed to strike for the Wildcats. Craig Moore and Kevin Coble, who both had struggled recently, caught fire. Moore hit seven threes for the game (four in the second half) and scored 23 points. His only points which were not of the three point variety came on a circus layup in the first half which might be the shot of the year. Coble scored a total of 26 points connecting on 4-of-6 three pointers. Unlike the past two games, whenever he was open he seemed to shoot with the confidence knowledge his shot was going down. He also brought out the array of circus shots he used against Michigan State and again seemed nearly unstoppable. Perhaps announcers Tom Hamilton and Steve Smith are Coble’s good luck charms. Personally, I’m thinking of asking the Big Ten Network put them on every Wildcat broadcast from here on out. Coble also impressed with his passing. He dished out 3 assists against 0 turnovers and the play on which he found Jeremy Nash for a layup was one of the sweetest looks from a Wildcat all season. Coble also got 3 steals today. It is amazing how Coble’s offensive and defensive performance seem connected. When on his game, Coble is a nearly unstoppable scorer and a master at jumping the passing lanes. When he is off, he looks like a guy who forces shots and can’t get where he needs to go on defense. Hopefully, Coble will bring his “A” game the rest of the season, as although the Wildcats might not be fighting for an NCAA tournament berth, they are still battling for a postseason bid and perhaps a home tournament game in the NIT, CBI, or CIT.
Another player who burst on to the scene in the second half for Northwestern was Kyle Rowley. Rowley scored all seven of his points in the second half and really seemed to ignite Northwestern’s run into the lead with a three point play. He still grabbed only three rebounds, but his presence seemed to help Northwestern out rebound the Buckeyes 15-9 in the second half. If Rowley can use this as jumping off point for success, it will help Northwestern against Minnesota and Indiana who also have talented young big men.
Another highlight for Northwestern was Michael “Juice” Thompson scoring only 3 points, but dishing out 7 assists and getting 3 steals. Thompson also shook off a big turnover which allowed OSU to tie the game to find John Shurna for the winning bucket. Shurna, who needed an IV before the game thanks to the flu, actually scored 9 points total, including a great three point play on the break, but his biggest play was the game’s final shot. It is a shot which sets up a huge game with postseason implications between the Wildcats and Minnesota on Sunday night.