29 January 2012

Purdue 58 NORTHWESTERN 56 (F)

Northwestern's (12-8, 2-6) narrow loss to Purdue (15-7, 5-4) jeopardizes NU's NCAAs dreams.  To be sure there is still a chance of it happening.  It's just an uphill battle now which places a greater importance on NU executing near peak performance for the duration of the season.

We should know by Valentine's Day what be the dealio.  It is at that point that NU will be 2/3rds of the way through the B1G season, and it is imperative that NU's conference record be at least 5-7.  To get there NU must take care of business at home against Nebraska and Iowa.  We like our chances there.  To get that third victory NU must avenge a narrow loss when it travels to Illinois or Purdue.  According to kenpom.com between those two games NU has a 50/50 chance of winning one of them.  Sooner or later NU will get back to winning these coin flip type games right?

When it was not turning the ball over a shorthanded Northwestern squad actually held its own quite well against Purdue yesterday.  Purdue scored 21 points off an uncharacteristically high 16 Northwestern turnovers.  In a game that came down to a Robbie Hummel runner on the baseline with 8 seconds to play it is fair to say that turnovers cost NU this game.

Northwestern's "Big Two" came to play.  Drew Crawford had 23 points on 9-16 shooting including 4-7 from distance.  Johnny Shurna poured in 15 points on 6-11 shooting and 2-5 from distance (including the miss on a last ditch heave as the clock expired).   The two also collected 8 and 7 rebounds, respectively.

In the turnover department Reggie Hearn, Davide Curletti and Crawford had 5, 4 and 4, respectively.  Purdue is one of the better B1G teams in turning their opponents over, but those figures are outrageous especially considering that Curletti and Hearn logged just 26 and 29 minutes respectively.

If the Michigan State game was Curletti's high water mark then this game may have been his low point.  His +/- was -15 and his Roland Rating was -28.  Zoinks!  Here are the gory second half details behind those figures.  Northwestern struggled to produce offense in this game until the 16:30 mark when Alex Marcotullio subbed in for Davide Curletti.  Sparked by Marcotullio's insertion into the lineup NU went on a 15-2 run over the next 4:30 NU to erase a 9 point deficit and build a 40-36 lead.  With Curletti back in the lineup Purdue regained control by outscoring 18-9.  With Curletti back on the bench NU then outscored Purdue 7-2 to knot the game at 56.  Curletti subbed back into the game for Crawford on Purdue's final possession, and we know what happened there.

We didn't plan this to be a rant against Curletti, and it is a bit unfair to lay this loss on him because this is a team game.  But the stats are pretty damning.  Luka Mirkovic is a favorite punching bag for NU fans, but we have to wonder if the outcome of this game wouldn't have been different if he had been able to play (he was in a boot with a twisted ankle).  We have to believe he would've provide a little more than 1-5 shooting, 0-2 from the charity stripe and 4 turnovers.  In the ultimate making lemonade scenario, Luka's slow foot speed also probably would've prevented him from being in position to muck up a Reggie Hearn steal out of the 1-3-1 like Curletti did. 

So NU has finished January on a low note.  Let's make this a February to, ummmm, Them Drew Bury. Next up NU plays host to Nebraska for the first time on Thursday.  Thanks to the loss to Purdue this is a must win game.  NU will be a sizable favorite in the game so a loss to the Cornhuskers would be inexcusable especially since NU has been backed into a corner.