Earlier this college basketball season, NU took the #1 (and then undefeated) Ohio State Buckeyes down to the final minute, and lost by just one in Evanston. And today the Wildcats had a lead on the #1 in both polls Buckeyes, but couldn’t close the deal.
A day after Northwestern senior Juice Thompson put the point in point guard (breaking the Big Ten Tournament single game points record held by Purdue Boilermakers Brian Cardinal), the Wildcats struggled substantially with their offense. Sure, part of that was the game plan, slowing tempo and limiting possessions.
But part of it was ineffective shooting; and the result was a 67-61 overtime loss. Still #1 vs. #8 games in the Big Ten Tournament are not supposed to be this close and exciting.
By Paul M. Banks
NU is now 16-1 when scoring 70 or more this season, 2-12 when scoring 69 or less. They had the opportunities on Friday, they just didn’t convert.
Yesterday, in their convincing win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers, the Cats were one point shy of the school record for points in a big ten tournament game with 75. Today they ended up with just 61, in overtime, and shot just 37% for the game, 33% from three.
The Cats were led by John Shurna’s 23 points and five rebounds. Drew Crawford had a double-double, but once again struggled mightily with his shot, going an awful 4-16 from the field.
The Cats did a good job limiting Jared Sullinger though, the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year and first team all-conference selection was only 2-12 from the floor.
But he did some serious damage from the foul line, going 16-18 and finishing just two boards shy of a 20-20 game. Jared talked about getting hacked to pieces.
“It’s the Big Ten, it’s where you got to be physical, and they’re going to swallow the whistles and you got to move on to the next possession,” Sullinger said.
The Buckeyes out-rebounded the Cats by a whopping 48-27 margin.
“Jared was huge down the stretch for us,” OSU Coach Thad Matta said.
Written by Paul M. Banks, President and CEO of The Sports Bank.net, a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports
He does a weekly radio segment on Chicagoland Sports Radio.com and Cleveland.com
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbankFollow paulmbanks