Northwestern wasn’t particularly sharp tonight, but the Wildcats got by the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils by a score of 74-54. Looking at the positives from tonight, John Shurna’s career night stands out above all else. Shurna scored 29 points and grabbed 6 rebounds in 37 minutes of play. He also threw down two dunks and made a couple clutch baskets down the stretch when it looked like the Blue Devils might make the contest close.
Looking closer at Shurna’s night, the best moments of the night were when he buried two threes out of four attempts. Perhaps those baskets are a signal that his shooting slump might be coming to an end. With the Big Ten season right around the corner that would help NU a ton.
Another Wildcat who played a great game tonight was Michael “Juice” Thompson. Thompson clearly will benefit from the Holiday Break he is about to go on, but he played 35 minutes tonight scoring 14 points, dishing out 7 assists, and getting 4 steals. Thompson did make only 2-of-7 threes, but like his fellow guard Alex Marcotullio who missed 4 threes, he doesn’t look bad when he misses. When the ball leaves Juice’s or Alex’s hand it looks like it is going to go in the hoop.
A third Wildcat who stuffed the stat sheet tonight was Drew Crawford. With 15 points this was Crawford’s forth straight game in double figures, but perhaps most impressive were the 4 assists he had which clearly showed he has developed a great understanding of the Princeton Offense. Crawford setup one of John Shurna’s two dunks with a snazzy back door pass.
Looking now at a couple areas Northwestern needs to improve before Big Ten season, first NU needs more post-production from the center position. Luka Mirkovic scored once with his back to the basket and Kyle Rowley hit a hook shot, but overall NU was more perimeter oriented than they should have been against a small CCSU team. NU was also out rebounded by CCSU 35-28. Not that I expect NU to outrebound a ton of Big Ten teams, but they can’t be as poor on the glass as they were tonight.
NU also struggled from three tonight making only 5-of-22. Obviously, it is within NU’s power to make threes. They did set a Big Ten record, but they can’t rush threes or force threes. The threes need to come in the offense. NU really seemed to be forcing threes early in the game, but did get better in the second half. Shurna’s last three came on textbook execution of the Princeton Offense.
NU now takes off until December 30th when they play Illinois. The Illini are off to an up and down start, but NU will need to bring more intensity to that contest than they brought tonight.