29 February 2012

Ohio State 75 NORTHWESTERN 73 (F)

Leap Day 2012.  Instead of a magical day that several moons ago we had envisioned would somehow be inspired by the quirkiness of man's accounting for the Earth's non-rounded path around the Sun we got this.  And by this we mean the feeling that we want to take a leap.  Off Navy Pier. 

Northwestern (17-12,7-10) once again came up on the short end of the stick in a key home matchup against a ranked foe.  This time it was Jared Sullinger who drove the dagger in Wildcat fans' hearts with the go ahead bucket with three ticks left on the clock. 

Many folks will look at the rebounding statistics and conclude that was the reason for NU's loss.  Yes and no.  Yes it goes without saying that had NU been able to get more rebounds the game would've been different.  However it was far from unexpected to see NU dominated on the boards.  Hello? Davide Curletti vs Jared Sullinger?  In addition to this mismatch the weights were even more tilted in OSU's favor given Coach Carmody's wise decision to drop the switching man defense that allowed about 2 points per possession early in the game in favor of the 1-3-1.

But no.  The biggest reason that NU lost this game is Aaron Craft.  The guy completely shut down his man on defense as expected.  But the real killer was his dead eye shooting.  We've watched too many OSU games than we care to admit, but this was the best shooting night we've seen Craft all year.  It's not like in the other games he was forced to miss shots by strong defense.  From what we have seen he just simply missed the same types of wide open looks that NU decided that it would give to him tonight.  Had Craft made just 2-5 from distance which is two less than he made but still generously above his season average percentage then NU wins this game.

We don't want to hear no stinking whining about Drew Crawford's free throw shooting.  Yes he went 1-5 including missing two front ends of one and one opportunities, but Drew played like a Man tonight and was a key reason NU was even in the game.  In 27 minutes of play Drew scored 23 points on 9-11 shooting including 4-6 from downtown.  He also had 4 boards, 3 assists, 1 steal and no turnovers.  A very good night that should not be discounted due to some troubles at the charity stripe.

Johnny Shurna was hounded all night by OSU, but he still managed to pour in 22 points on Senior Night.  He would've had more if the refs hadn't swallowed their whistles as he was tossed around in the low post on numerous occasions.  They let that shit go but called ticky tack fouls on NU defenders who gently bumped OSU motion on the perimeter?  That's some serious BS!

One additional shout out has to go to Alex Marcotullio who momentarily gave NU fans a reason to jump around by knocking an NBA three pointer to knot the game at 73 with 7.7 seconds to play.  We think that a couple more plays should've gone his way after the streaky shooter found nothing but net on a bomb at the 5:25 mark, but that is a very minor quibble.  

With the win Ohio State (24-6, 12-5) travels to East Lansing to try to win itself a share of the B1G regular season title.  With the loss Northwestern has officially missed the chance of securing an NCAAs berth during the regular season, but the NCAAs dream is far from dead.

NU is back in the familiar season ending position with its back against the wall.  The good news is that the Wildcats still control their destiny and with a reasonably achievable path to glory.  It won't be easy, but a win at Io_a coupled with a first round B1G tourney victory should be enough to get NU onto the bubble.   A three game winning streak starting this Saturday in Io_a City would likely secure an NCAAs berth.

NU is playing well enough to make this happen.  But it is all moot unless NU gets what amounts to a must win game Saturday afternoon against Io_a (16-14, 8-9) at Carver Ha_keye.  The game tips off at 1:30pm central on BTN.  Two words: Road Trip.  It should be a wild environment as the Ha_keye faithful would like nothing better than to put a nail in NU's NCAAs coffin.