15 January 2011

NU falls in overtime at East Lansing

In its rematch with Michigan State, Northwestern battled longer and harder, but the result was the same. The overtime loss at the Breslin leaves NU and its fans with that old familiar empty feeling of a missed opportunity to make some hay.

First let's give credit where it is due. Michigan State executed down the stretch in a well-managed final minute of regulation and overtime. Sparty aggressively attacked the basket and either got layups or to the charity stripe where they knocked down all their freebies.

Northwestern did its part to contest the outcome. Drew Crawford, JerShon Cobb, and Luka Mirkovic were cold blooded in front of a raucous MSU student body as they repeatedly knocked down some absolutely huge buckets.

Ultimately it was NU that blinked. First Luka Mirkovic missed a FT regulation that if converted very likely would've sent Northwestern home victorious. Then in overtime NU had a three point lead and the ball midway through the stanza when Drew Crawford made an ill-advised pass that led to a breakaway Draymond Green dunk.

As always these close games bring out the armchair coaches. We've seen many criticisms including Coach Carmody not calling timeouts or not taking the ball earlier at a foul plagued Green to get him out of the game or inbounding the ball to Mirkovic which allowed MSU to foul him. These points are all debatable but ultimately inconclusive in our opinion.

The thing that bothered us the most was the questionable substitution pattern in which Coach Carmody brought in Luka Mirkovic for Davide Curletti for that fateful inbounds play. In that situation Sparty had to foul so it made sense to get your best free throw shooters. Why sit Curletti for Mirkovic in that situation? It makes no sense.

In any event the best part about this game is that Northwestern demonstrated that it can play consistently solid defense. We also liked to see Drew Crawford attacking the hoop, and other players stepping up when opponents zero in on Shurna. Cobb was very impressive and Mirkovic had a solid second half.

With an improving defense and a stellar offense the NCAA dream is far from over.