Northwestern finished the regular season with a whimper this afternoon, losing in overtime to hapless Indiana to finish the Big Ten schedule a disappointing 7-11, including an awful 2-4 vs the 3 conference cellar dwellers. John Shurna had a monster game with 31 points and 12 rebounds, and Michael Thompson added 25 points and 8 assists, but they got no help from their teammates, and Indiana used a balanced attack to snap their school record 11 game losing streak.
There were numerous momentum swings in the game, but I thought the biggest came midway through the 2nd half. The 'Cats had turned a 6 point halftime deficit into a 4 point lead, and using full court pressure to get consecutive steals, they were on the verge of breaking the game open. But twice they failed to score in transition, first when Shurna missed both free throws after getting fouled, and second when Jeremy Nash threw up the ugliest looking reverse lay-up attempt I have ever seen. Had they converted both those chances, it's an 8 point lead and Indiana is on the ropes, but instead the Hoosiers went on a run, thanks to the hot 3-point shooting of freshman Jordan Hulls, and led by 8 with about 3 minutes left. Northwestern rallied to force overtime, but had a golden opportunity to take the lead in regulation when Alex Marcotullio missed a breakaway layup with 40 seconds left, then bricked a three with 20 seconds left. While the latter was a wide open look, I would have liked to see the ball in the hands of Shurna or Thompson on the final possession.
In overtime, Indiana quickly opened up a 9 point lead, but NU rallied to cut the deficit to 4 with 2 minutes left, and forced Hulls into an airball as the shot clock was winding down, and Nash was in perfect position to rebound the ball on the weak side, but instead stood around watching as the much slower Bobby Capobianco ran around him and put the ball up and in, at which point Nash finally decided to start trying and committed a foul for a 3-point play. Nash didn't even have to corral the rebound; if he'd just gotten his hands on it the shot clock would have expired and NU would have had the ball down 4 with plenty of time to rally. I understand he's played a ton of minutes, but there's zero excuse for putting in that little effort; extremely disappointing for a senior to give up like that. Instead, Capobianco hit the free throw and essentially ended the game; NU kept fouling but the Hoosiers hit 26 of 32 free throws to ice it.
It's very disappointing to lose a game in which Shurna and Thompson played so well, but they just didn't get any help. Mirkovic had a decent outing with 8 points and 10 rebounds, and Marcotullio managed 7 in 28 minutes, but Nash had a rough shooting afternoon at just 1 for 10 and had only 5 points, and Drew Crawford continued to struggle with only 4 points. The NU defense wasn't as awful as it has been, but was still pretty bad, as Indiana shot 44% from the field including 10-22 from 3-point range. They forced 15 turnovers, but also allowed 17 offensive rebounds.
I guess the one bright side from this debacle is that Northwestern won't have to face Penn State on Thursday in the Big Ten tournament; instead they will most likely play Indiana, but will fall to the 8th seed if Michigan upsets Michigan State and would instead play Iowa. It's difficult to get excited for the Big Ten tournament after a performance like this, but if Northwestern wants to avoid playing in the CBI, they'd better get at least one win in Indianapolis.