I don’t really know what to say right now. Another good effort, but the bottom line is Northwestern just can’t reach the summit when it comes to postseason sports in both men’s basketball and football. I know people will talk about how this was a great effort, and it was, but it means nothing and I can’t pretend like it does. The loss is a loss. No such thing as a good loss exists which means the NIT selection committee is just going to see Northwestern as an 18-13 team with really no good wins. That means the odds are NU is going to play a road game in the NIT now, and because they stink outside of Evanston they’ll likely lose it. So while a 67-61 loss to the #1 team in the country (especially playing short handed) is a nice accomplishment, it’s not an accomplishment that’s really worth anything other than another number of the record’s right hand side. It’s like the Outback Bowl two years ago, everybody was so proud of that game, but the bottom line is it was a loss. I don’t care how great the game was; we’ve mastered losing close games. Let’s work on winning them.
What went well today? John Shurna was great. He scored 23 points and really came back from a major sub-par effort against Minnesota. I wish he would have tried score in the post late in regulation instead of passing to ice cold Drew Crawford and I think he forced a few shots in OT, but overall I’d say Shurna was NU’s best player today. Crawford did alright as well, but the fact his jump shot has totally deserted him makes him a less effective player. He did do a decent job of taking the ball to the hoop, but his preference for finger rolls and fade-a-aways made him miss a number of looks I thought he could/should have finished. In the end, those might have been the difference in the game. He did hit all his free throws and actually NU’s free throw shooting today was fantastic. If NU had won in regulation it would have been the reason. I thought NU also did play decent defense, but the fact is Jared Sullinger is just a monster compared to anybody NU has. No matter how well Luka Mirkovic, Davide Curletti, or John Shurna played him, the odds were they were going to foul him at some point. In overtime, the refs seemed to become more willing to call those fouls and that hurt the ‘Cats as well.
Juice Thompson wasn’t as good today as yesterday, but OSU’s Aaron Craft is a great defender and he made Thompson have to really work for shots that yesterday he could have got with ease. NU also didn’t really get the same bench contribution today as yesterday, but I think we all knew that Ohio State was a tough game for Nick Fruendt. Maybe having JerShon Cobb and Mike Capocci might have pushed NU over the top in this one, but that’s worthless speculation.
In the end, NU played well, but the better team won and the game’s best player made the biggest difference. It was simply a surprise that most of that difference came at the free throw line and not in the post where NU actually did okay on Sullinger. If Northwestern ever wants to truly compete with good teams, they will have to improve their post players. Like I said, Mirkovic and Curletti did okay, but Sullinger still got way more rebounds and scored way more points. Also, Mirkovic almost cost NU a chance to win even earlier in OT with a silly technical foul because he couldn’t control his emotions. Thankfully, the OSU player missed both shots the so the foul didn’t really matter in terms of points, but it did send Mirkovic to the bench which might have made a difference since then the smaller Shurna had to guard Sullinger.
The bottom line is this is another terribly disappointing loss for Northwestern basketball. It’s the kind of loss that makes you wonder if making the tournament will ever be possible. NU actually caught a few breaks today such as an Alex Marcotullio three counting when it shouldn’t have and OSU shooting sub-par, but is wasn’t enough. Seemingly, nothing ever is.