"It's a very disappointing loss," said NU senior point guard Michael Thompson. "Obviously we came down here to win it, not just to play teams close."
The Wildcats were able to hold Ohio State to just 32% from the field, but the Buckeyes were able to win the game at the free throw line, where they hit 26-32 free throws.
Jared Sullinger led all Buckeye scorers with 20 points on just 2-12 shooting, but the All-Big Ten freshman was able to hit 16-18 free throws.
Northwestern junior forward John Shurna led all scorers with 23 points on 7-13 from the field. Juice Thompson finished with 15 points, while Drew Crawford finished with a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds.
In a season filled with "what if's", it seemed like the Wildcats were finally going to catch a break. Down 49-48 with over three minutes remaining, Alex Marcotullio drained a three-pointer as the shot clock expired. It appeared as if the referees missed that the ball had not left Marcotullio's hands in time. The call stood.
With just over a minute remaining, Northwestern had a chance to get a big basket, but Drew Crawford missed a jump-shot. After that, Jared Sullinger hit one of two free throws, which tied the score at 52. Once again, Northwestern had a great chance to take the lead, but Drew Crawford's off-balance shot was blocked David Lighty. On the other end, Jared Sullinger had a chance to win it, but his off-balance jumper missed.
The game changed in overtime. With Northwestern trailing by four points, Juice Thompson was able to isolate Luka Mirkovic on the outside, who drilled an open three-pointer. On the other end, Mirkovic was called for a foul. After Mirkovic's mouth guard fell out, he threw it down to the ground in anger, and was given a technical foul.
"You just can't make that showy kind of maneuver," said Carmody of the technical foul. "The ref is not there to interpret whether you did it because you're upset with yourself or with him. He just sees the action."
After the foul, Ohio State scored five-straight points, which had the Wildcats playing from behind. From that point on, it was Ohio State's game to win, and they closed it out.
For the second time this season, Northwestern gave Ohio State all they could handle. The Wildcats were able to slow down the Buckeye offensive attack, and contain to a season-low 32% from the field, but in the end, NU fell short of the win.
"I am proud of the way they played," said Bill Carmody. "You know, don't get me wrong, the way we executed, the way we went into it thinking this is the way to beat this team. But we just weren't able to get it done."
Now, it appears likely that the Wildcats will play in the National Invitational Tournament, which would be the program's sixth NIT berth. While the postseason appearance is an honor, it's just not quite the same as what could have been.
"It would be great for our school, but at the same time I think, especially with Juice as a senior, we were really hoping to do well at this tournament," said John Shurna. "So it's disappointing we won't be--probably won't be playing in the NCAA tournament, but hopefully it'll be good for our school and for the program to make the NIT."