Sometimes you don’t win in sports. It’s as simple as that. Even if you play well the other team comes out on top. What’s kind of depressing about Northwestern’s season end loss to Washington State is that while NU played well, they could have played better and with such a narrow margin of defeat you can’t help thinking about what went wrong. Still, the fact of the matter is the game was close and well-played on both sides so it really isn’t productive to focus on NU’s poor start, some odd officiating, poor shooting all night from three (especially from John Shurna), or the fact that WSU’s Casto had himself magically unsuspended to play in this game. Northwestern lost because they couldn’t score more than two points in overtime. That’s the fact of the matter and I’m not going to put the loss on anything else.
I’m sorry to see Juice Thompson go and so much wish he would have made just one more shot, but again he played a great game making multiple big shots and hustling from the opening jump to the last buzzer. I sincerely hope Alex Marcotullio and JerShon Cobb learned something from him about competitiveness because he was teaching a great lesson about how competing all out for 40 minutes makes you a better player every time he stepped on the floor.
I did think Alex continued to show his growth versus Washington State. He does play hard and has gotten way more comfortable on offense. I so wished he would have made one of his two final shots, but obviously the first one was something of a panicked shot because he wanted to give NU a chance for a rebound and the second was totally rushed with less than two seconds left. I think as he gets into his junior and senior year when he gets his feet set Alex will be one of the best shooters the Big Ten has to offer.
Marcotullio and the ‘Cats also played very good defense in the second half. Unfortunately, their first half defense reverted to the defense NU played for the majority of the season as WSU got whatever shot they wanted. Some of that I think was because Northwestern early on looked unprepared for Washington State’s trapping defense and that got WSU easy shots, but regardless the truth of the matter is that even though NU got the lead briefly and got the game tied at the end of regulation, in a lot of ways Washington State won the game when they built up a 14 point first half margin and forced NU to virtually always play from behind.
That playing from behind is part of the reason NU shot so many threes, but that’s also part of NU’s game. I just wish John Shurna could have made closer to his average. Instead, he hit just 2-of-10. That’s too bad because I think he’s almost over his injury, he just missed. Of course, some credit for that has to go Washington State’s physical defense. I think one of the offseason goals for NU has to be for Shurna to get into the weight room so physical defenders can’t wear him down as much.
So, the season is over. This is a tough end, but if I had to pick anything other than a championship to end my year, I’d pick finishing my year with a close loss to a higher ranked team every time. Sure, you’re stuck wondering “what it?” but the close loss also proves you belonged in the game with that opponent. It wasn’t a lucky break you were there and it wasn’t the fault of the teams you beat. You deserved your opportunity to play for something special and though it didn’t work out, you still have reason to be proud of your effort.