The final 3.1 seconds of John Shurna’s career at Welsh-Ryan Arena was a freakishly perfect representation of his four years spent at Northwestern.
A program that has never been to the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats have been knocking on the door – a fringe bubble team – for two, maybe even three if you’re generous, of Shurna’s four illustrious seasons on the team.
Tonight, the school’s all-time leading scorer threw up a half-court heave as time expired that fell just short. So close to greatness yet to far away, as the Wildcats lost to No. 10 Ohio State 75-73.
It’s hard to say if this loss to the Buckeyes sealed the fate of Bill Carmody’s club. Some would say that this team is off the bubble for good, while others would content they there’s still hope. History indicates that teams with an RPI of 50 or better always make the tournament. With a rating of 44, the Wildcats still have a fighting chance heading into their regular season finale at Iowa and then the Big Ten Tournament.
But as great a moment hearing Northwestern’s name called on Selection Sunday would be for even the most casual of college basketball fans, are the Wildcats really deserving of some sort of career achievement award for their star guard?
This is a team that lives and dies by the output they get from Shurna, the conference’s leading scorer, and Drew Crawford, who ranks in the top 10 of many of the important offensive categories. Tonight the duo combined for 55 of the team’s 73 points, enough to keep this game close, but not nearly enough to account for -26 rebounding margin.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes showed what a balanced offensive team looks like, making 29 field goals on 20 assists as four of OSU’s starting five finished in double figures.
With their best non-conference victory coming way back in November against Seton Hall, Northwestern will want to carefully track the Pirates the rest of the season. The two are currently neck-and-neck in the RPI rankings, so if head-to-head means anything it could serve as the push needed for the Wildcats to make history.