Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern falls in clutch to No. 1 Ohio State

Northwestern may have been an errant pass away from the biggest upset in program history.

With 16 seconds left and the score tied against the nation’s top team, Ohio State senior guard David Lighty intercepted Alex Marcotullio’s fling to JerShon Cobb under the hoop. All the Buckeyes needed on their ensuing possession was a lone point, and that’s exactly what they got. After a last-second Drew Crawford heave missed the hoop, No. 1 Ohio State escaped with a 58-57 victory. It was NU’s closest loss in two years.

“We just wanted to get a shot, and we didn’t get a shot,” coach Bill Carmody said of NU’s second-to-last possession. “I’m disappointed as hell.”

Until that possession, Carmody had little to be disappointed with. Without its star player – junior forward John Shurna sat out Saturday after suffering a concussion against Minnesota on Wednesday – NU (13-8, 3-7 Big Ten) stuck with the best team in the country, managing to erase a 13-point second-half deficit in eight minutes. Carmody’s crew controlled the clock, slowing the Buckeyes’ lethal offense by keeping them on defense.

“We just decided we were going to control the game with our offense,” Carmody said. “Especially without (Shurna), we just thought that it wasn’t going to give the team a chance to win if we went up and down with them.”

For a team that scores a conference-leading 78.4 points-per-game, 58 points tied the fewest Ohio State (22-0, 9-0) has scored all season. The Buckeyes, who average 19 shots from beyond the arc, settled for eight attempts Sunday. Instead they sent the ball inside, mostly to their freshman phenom Jared Sullinger. The 6-foot-9, 280-pound Sullinger scored early and often for Ohio State, as the Buckeyes went to him on three of their first four possessions. Eighteen of Ohio State’s 27 first-half points came in the paint, and Sullinger recorded eight of those.

“He’s a really good player and a mature basketball player,” Carmody said of Sullinger. “With the shooters out there that they have he causes problems for opponents.”

NU, which has struggled on the boards all season, had arguably its best day cleaning the glass Saturday. The Cats outrebounded the Buckeyes 31-20, their largest margin since they dominated Iowa in the paint on Jan. 12. Crawford and freshman guard Cobb led NU with six boards apiece.

Crawford recorded half of those rebounds in a two-minute stretch late in the second half. After a seven-point possession in which Cobb and senior guard Michael Thompson nailed treys while junior center Davide Curletti chipped in a free throw, the Cats cut the Buckeyes lead from 12 to five. Crawford pulled down an offensive rebound on NU’s next possession, and after bleeding 23 seconds off the shot clock Thompson drained a long ball. A minute-and-a-half later Crawford grabbed a missed free throw, and Marcotullio made the Buckeyes pay with a three of his own, cutting Ohio State’s lead to one.

NU and Ohio State traded baskets, keeping the margin within two until Thompson hit a jumper to tie the game with 92 seconds left. After an Ohio State turnover, NU ran its play ‘chin,’ which calls for multiple passes and backdoor cuts. With the shot clock winding down, Lighty stepped in front of Marcotullio’s pass intended for Cobb, giving the Buckeyes new life.

“It all comes down to little things in the game,” Carmody said. “We’ve got to get a shot in that situation.”

The Cats’ third co0nsecutive loss ties a season-high and elevates the importance of next week’s battle with in-state rival Illinois. NU has just three conference victories and would likely need nine or 10 to qualify for the NCAA tournament. With eight games to go, the Cats are hoping Saturday’s game can give them the jump-start that they’ve been searching for.

“We just have to come back to practice and continue to work hard, watch some film and learn from our mistakes,” Thompson said. “There’s definitely a lot to take away from this game.”

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Northwestern falls in clutch to No. 1 Ohio State