March 11, 2011
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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -
For the second time this season, Northwestern gave top-ranked Ohio State all it could handle. But the Wildcats couldn't close out the Buckeyes, falling 67-61 in an overtime thriller in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten tournament Friday afternoon at Conseco Fieldhouse.
John Shurna led Northwestern with a game-high 23 points.
The Wildcats found the tempo to their liking in the first half as it was able to hold the Buckeyes' high-powered offense in check.
After managing just two points in Thursday's victory over Minnesota, Shurna got off to a good start. His second 3-pointer of the first half came at the 6:54 mark, giving Northwestern a 16-14 lead. The junior forward would score 10 points in the first period.
The Wildcats were down one when Davide Curletti made a pair of free throws and Alex Marcotullio hit a triple to give NU its largest lead of the first half, 23-19, with 3:07 left in the opening stanza.
However, Northwestern was unable to score the remainder of the half as the Buckeyes scored the final nine points, including a tip-in by Aaron Craft that beat the buzzer, to give Ohio State a 28-23 lead.
Neither team shot the ball well over the opening 20 minutes of play with the Wildcats shooting 33.3 percent (7-21) and OSU connecting on 34.2 percent (13-38) of its tries.
Ohio State extended its lead to five early in the second half, but NU refused to go away. A jumper by Shurna and then a slam off a feed from Curletti got the Wildcats within one before Michael Thompson scored to put Northwestern up 38-37 with just under 11 minutes remaining.
The teams went back and forth the rest of the way with neither team leading by more than three. Six straight points by the Wildcats, capped by a pair of Drew Crawford free throws put NU up 49-46 with five minutes to go.
The Buckeyes answered with five straight, but Marcotullio drilled a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to put Northwestern ahead by one with 2:09 left. Jared Sullinger would make one of two from the charity stripe with one minute remaining to knot the score at 52.
On the other end, Crawford was forced into a tough shot as the shot clock was about to expire and wasn't able to connect. Ohio State had a final opportunity to win it in regulation, but Sullinger missed well short on a fadeaway to send the game into overtime.
Sullinger started the scoring in the extra session with four free throws before Luka Mirkovic hit a trey from the left wing to cut the deficit to one. However, Sullinger hit two more from the line and Jon Diebler hit a 3-pointer with 2:21 to go to stretch the Buckeyes' lead to six. NU was unable to get closer than four the rest of the way.
Thompson followed up his record-setting 35-point performance Thursday with 15 points against Ohio State. Crawford contributed a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The Wildcats' defense limited the Buckeyes to 32.2 percent shooting in the game, including 5-for-19 in the second half. Sullinger hit all 10 of his free throw attempts in overtime and went 16-for-18 in the game while posting 20 points and 18 rebounds.
Northwestern now awaits its postseason fate. The NIT Selection Show is scheduled for 8 p.m. Sunday and is being televised by ESPNU.
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