Northwestern wasn't supposed to win last night. Beating any Big Ten team on the road, let alone Ohio State with Evan Turner (left) healthy, is a tough task. Northwestern didn't need to win last night. The Wildcats still have many chances to improve their NCAA Tournament resume and get into that elusive first dance.
Even with that said, it still feels a bit shallow. It's one thing to lose. It's another to lose by 20 points and never really be in the game.
But as I said on Twitter while watching the game, Ohio State is Northwestern's kryptonite. Under Thad Matta the Buckeyes always have, and probably always will, do the things that you need to do to contain the Princeton Offense and befuddle the 1-3-1. When you take Northwestern out of that tricky comfort zone the Wildcats are in trouble. Last night wasn't any different from any other game against Ohio State. In a way that's frustrating in it's own right. But just check out the history.
In the past 6 games between these two teams before Tuesday night, spanning three seasons, Northwestern was 1-5. The lone victory came at Welsh-Ryan Arena on February 18, 2009. The average margin of defeat in the road contests? 16 points.
Bill Carmody realized that this game was headed in the wrong direction fast. He tried some different things. Look at the box score: Nick Fruendt, Mike Capocci and Ivan Peljusic all got significant playing time. It wasn't just blowout minutes at the end either. Carmody was searching for a spark. (And also probably wishing he had someone that could guard Turner.)
In the end the result was the same. After upsetting Purdue on Saturday and rushing the court the Wildcats were back to same old Northwestern. The ESPN's of the world were already forgetting about last week's victory and focusing on Tuesday's loss. Unfortunately that's the sports culture that we live in today. It's a Johnny-come-lately world where you're only as good as your last game.
This is a different Northwestern team. Sure the Wildcats didn't show it on Tuesday, but with five days to prepare for Illinois on Saturday they better be ready against the Illini. Northwestern is under the microscope and they failed the first experiment. Let's hope the next one goes a bit better.