03 January 2011

One box out short of a historic comeback

Tom Izzo decided to take take the air of the ball and nurse a 13 point lead with about three minutes to play. Northwestern nearly made the Spartans pay.

This tactical decision effectively made the Spartan players hesitant and caused them to do just about everything possible to allow NU back into the game for a chance at an improbable victory. Poor passes leading to turnovers, charges, passing on wide open threes by shooters who barely stirred the net as they swished them previously, you name it.

In what seemed a blink of the eye, what was once a comfortable road victory for Sparty turned into a nail biter as Northwestern stormed back to make it a one point game with just 25 seconds to play. That's where the storybook ending for the Wildcats unraveled.

On the penultimate possession of the game Alex Marcotullio reached-in on Kalin Lucas with about a dozen seconds remaining to force a one-and-one situation. Normally foulding Lucas would be a bad idea, but as noted in our pregame bit Lucas is but a shell of his former All Big Ten self at the moment.

As Lucas settled in for the front end, we were yelling "box the f#*&$ out" in this pivotal moment. As if on cue, Lucas spun out his attempt, but Green bulled his way through John Shurna to corral the rebound and put it back for an easy deuce. MOTHER F%#&ER!!!!!

Northwestern opted to not take a timeout on the last possession of the game, and ultimately they were unable to knot the game at the buzzer. Cue the armchair coaches.....

Hindsight may be 20/20, but a little foresight would've suggested that leaving a gimpy Shurna out there to box out Green was not a wise decision. Bad decision, Coach. Senior Mike Capocci who has the hops and the strength to corral a pivotal rebound should have been out there in his stead. Green may have still gotten the rebound as he is a heckuva player, but at least put a guy out there who has some ups and isn't nursing a bum ankle to box him out.

As for the criticism that NU should have called a timeout we think it might have been a good idea to have juice take it down to the bench and have a play set up with about 6 or 7 seconds to play. Even Carmody's detractors grudgingly admit that he is good at drawing up inbounds plays that result in open looks.

What we haven't seen from the fans is criticism to let the clock wind down to about 12 seconds before fouling Lucas. Really? In those situations you extend the game and adjust on the fly. If the opponent gets the ball to a JJ Redick type then so be it. Just foul the guy and stop the clock.

Carmody deserves a bit of the blame for some tactical errors in the last 25 seconds. But Izzo also deserves some blame for allowing the comeback to even become possibility. No one is perfect.

Lastly while we are disappointed in the outcome as we wrote in our pregame analysis we were more interested in the health of Shurna's ankle. It clearly is bothering him which should be even more troubling to Northwestern fans than this missed opportunity to steal a win.