Hearn, Marcotullio say goodbye

Lost in the hype of the Big Ten Tournament and the speculation of Bill Carmody's job status, seniors Reggie Hearn and Alex Marcotullio donned Northwestern purple one last time Thursday. Emotions ran high for two players who have seen the program change tremendously over the past four years.

Down by 13 late on Thursday, the Wildcats chased down the floor. Iowa forward Melsahn Basabe had just missed a thundering dunk, and the ball flew into Alex Marcotullio's hands as Northwestern made a hasty push for a more respectable final score.

Open on the left wing was Reggie Hearn. When he drained the easy three with 46 seconds to play, nobody batted an eye. These were Hearn's last three points as a Wildcat, and they're washed out by everything else going on.

The past month of Northwestern basketball has been dominated by paltry offensive outputs, mumblings over Bill Carmody's job security and a glimpse forward to next season. As the Wildcats' losses continued to mount, everything on the court was cast aside for a larger look at the future, and guesses at what a post-Carmody culture would look like.

Now, it hits.

What's been ignored is the departure of a pair of players that have meant everything to a program lacking a decisive identity. The two walked through the halls of the United Center arm-in-arm as Northwestern's season concluded with a 73-59 loss to Hawkeyes.

"We knew we had to give it our all," Marcotullio said after the game. "We just said to each other, are we going to leave it all out here or are we going to give up?"

Facing a confident, physical Iowa team in front of a crowd dominated by black and yellow, Marcotullio and Hearn chose the former.

Nineteen points and 10 rebounds from Hearn, who added three blocks for good measure. 50 percent shooting from Marcotullio, the standout defender when Northwestern deployed the 1-3-1 zone. Despite a prevailing sense of futility, the two seniors made their last 40 minutes count for something.

"I just told them in the locker room they will never have any regrets, either one of them," Carmody said.

Hearn, a walk-on who saw a regular role by his junior season, became Northwestern's top scoring option after Drew Crawford was lost to a torn labrum. After a scorching start to non-conference play, Hearn paced the ‘Cats against some of the country's most formidable opponents. On a team that fell well short of preseason expectations, Hearn exceeded personal ones.

Marcotullio is a different story. Still referred to with a Gus Johnson inflection from last year's thriller with Ohio State, his penchant for big shots and consistent perimeter play drew considerable expectations for a big senior season. Instead, Marcotullio saw his three-point shooting percentage drop to a pedestrian .344.

Against Michigan, the wingman connected on just one of six threes. In a week-long stretch from Jan. 6 to 13, Marcotullio stumbled to 2-of-12 shooting from behind the arc. But after a dominant three-steal defensive performance in an upset of then-no. 12 Minnesota and a career-high 22 points against Penn State on Northwestern's senior night, Marcotullio went out in style.

Leaving on a nine-game losing streak and nowhere close to even an NIT berth, Hearn and Marcotullio won't reach the elusive Tourney. But sometimes, that's just how it happens.

"It was really difficult," Marcotullio said when asked about coping with the serpentine season, "But that's basketball. You're going to have to deal with injuries...But it's no excuse."

Sticking by their maligned coach and refusing to accept those excuses, it's the seniors' character and dedication that will be remembered around Welsh-Ryan Arena. The 2012-13 season will soon be forgotten, as the return of Crawford and suspended guard Jershon Cobb signal a new hope for next fall. But Hearn and Marcotullio go beyond numbers and records.

"They're both guys who have class and they carry themselves with dignity," Carmody said.

Marcotullio's bomb against the Buckeyes and the frequent "Reg-gie!" chants from the student section are just a few of the memories that spin around Northwestern basketball before the program dives into an effort to reestablish itself.

Hearn and Marcotullio certainly did leave it all out there. Now, the Wildcats have to find someone else to pick it up.

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