By the end of overtime Northwestern was down to six healthy scholarship players. Jared Sullinger had already managed to foul out Davide Curletti and Luka Mirkovic and it was left up to John Shurna to try and tame Ohio State's 6'9 man-child. Unfortunately, everything Shurna did seemed constitute a foul in the eyes of the referees and Sullinger managed to finish off the Buckeyes' 67-61 victory in overtime.
It's not that Northwestern didn't get a few calls, because the Wildcats certainly did. Alex Marcotullio's three was probably after the shot clock expired, but it was a frustrating end nonetheless. Once again Bill Carmody's team took Ohio State to the final buzzer, and once again they came up just short.
Now begins a long wait for the Wildcats as they hope for a berth into the NIT. 18-13, 7-11 in the Big Ten doesn't look great, but it might be enough. The victory over Minnesota last night in the first round gives Northwestern an edge of a depleted Gophers squad and a win over Illinois is pretty good as well. Still, when the Wildcats look back on this season it will be these two games against Ohio State - and two close losses the Michigan State - that will leave fans wondering, "What if?"
Hopefully this loss is enough to convince the NIT selection committee that Northwestern really can play with the best in the country. A gutsy performance by Shurna, who scored 23 points on 7-13 shooting, showed that he might just be rounding into the form that his ankle injury and concussion robbed him of earlier in the season. Even though Aaron Craft
hounded Michael Thompson
, the Wildcats' senior leader still finished with 15 points.
So we'll see what happens. It's going to be close, but Northwestern should be playing somewhere on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. They should get one more chance to prove themselves.
And if this season is over, well I wish Thompson the best. He's done everything the Wildcats could've asked of him. This team gave it everything they had today, and that really is all you can ask for.