In maybe the most important game for the Northwestern Wildcats they fell short thanks to a lackluster start and the play of Ohio State star Evan Turner. Turner made shot after shot down stretch and blocked the Wildcats last shot by Luka Mirkovic to preserve the win. Despite the loss, Northwestern has to feel good about their effort to come back from a terrible fist half and actually take a 45-43 lead late in the game. However, the Wildcats showed one of their serious weaknesses which is containing a player with great ability to penetrate their zone. The same weakness cost the Wildcats dearly in a home loss to Michigan and their star Manny Harris. If Northwestern really wants to make it to the next level they must develop the ability to stop such players.
On the positive side, Craig Moore overcame a slow start and ended up with 18 points and 4 rebounds. Kevin Coble also scored in double figures for NU with 13 points, but committed far too many turnovers to really be considered effective. Coble had 4 turnovers and no assists. To be fair, though, the entire Wildcat roster had trouble holding on to the ball. When the coaching staff looks back at this game the 16 turnovers, many unforced, will be a major reason for the loss. Craig Moore’s 1 assists and 3 turnovers weren’t much better than Coble’s numbers. The Wildcats did out rebound Ohio State 26-25 and credit must go to the entire team as the ‘Cats made a total team effort on the boards. For the record, Kyle Rowley actually tied Craig Moore for the team-high with 4 rebounds.
In the end, Northwestern has to look at their inability to stop Evan Turner and their slow start as the reasons for their loss. Some might blame the slow start on the Wildcats missing their shootaround due to their bus driver forgetting about daylight saving time, but I think that’s a pretty poor excuse. NU just seemed a little overcome by the magnitude of the game early. Hopefully, despite the loss, the fact NU recovered and battled in a big game will help the ‘Cats in the Big Ten Tournament against Minnesota.
Finally, although I think missing the shootaround isn’t a great excuse, I will say I think Kevin Coble was fouled on his shot with less than 20 seconds left which would have tied the game. Even the Ohio State player who landed on him, Jon Diebler, seemed to expect the foul as he got the classic, “aw crap!” look on his face until he realized nothing was called. Of course, the fact is officials (especially veteran officials like Tim Higgins, Eric Curry, and Ted Hillary) rarely call those sorts of fouls in the last 20 seconds and maybe Coble should have known that. I don’t know? Maybe even if Coble had hit all three free throws Evan Turner still would have won the game at the buzzer. He looked unstoppable. I don’t know. All I know is that the Wildcats played a good 20 minutes today. If they had played a good 40, I think they would be in the NCAA Tournament. Instead, they are in a “must-win” scenario against Minnesota, and they if they are fortunate enough to win, against Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament. Those are two tough games. NU must show up for 40 minutes if they want to beat Minnesota on Thursday.