“If Shurna wasn’t out there I don’t think we would have scored.” – Bill Carmody
The above quote, provided by Coach Bill Carmody during his postgame interview on WIND radio, pretty sums up tonight’s game between Northwestern and Texas-Pan America. John Shurna scored 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to record his first career double-double. Luka Mirkovic helped out with 11 points and 11 rebounds for a double-double of his own. No other NU player made more than one field goal.
NU’s second leading scorer, Michael “Juice” Thompson, didn’t score until 11:53 remained in the game. Jeremy Nash, an 87% free throw shooter, converted only one of his first four free throws attempts. Thankfully, Nash did covert his final three in a row to help seal the game.
Basically, this looked a lot more like an NU team from two or three years ago than the NU team from two or three weeks ago. The ‘Cats started the game with two missed layups and three turnovers on their first five possessions. They finished the game with a season-high 19 turnovers. Thompson had probably the worst game of his career since taking on a loaded Michigan State team two years ago as a freshman. He finished 1-of-9 shooting with 5 turnovers. He did covert 4-of-5 free throws some of which were critical down the stretch. It should also be noted that Coach Carmody did indicate Juice has been taking an easy in practice since hurting his hip late against Illinois. That might impact his rhythm. It’d be nice if Juice could just rest a bit more given the injury situation, but NU’s really short at the guard spots. Also, NU’s freshman guards looked more like freshman tonight than maybe any games since the contests in the season first week. Alex Marcotullio had 4 turnovers which were pretty much the result of his making terrible decisions on attempts to enter the ball in the post. Drew Crawford went 1-of-7 shooting and missed all his three point attempts. I hope this doesn’t mean they’ve hit that wall freshman often encounter early in the Big Ten season.
Basically, Coach Carmody’s quote above is dead on. This was John Shurna’s game, with a little late help from Luka. Shurna hit 5-of-7 threes tonight and had a 20+ point game for the fifth game in a row. If his teammates had been able to get him the ball more regularity Shurna probably could have scored 30 tonight. Luka Mirkovic continues to, at times, look unaggressive, but I did like how he attacked the glass against a smaller opponent tonight. However, Luka needs to get more comfortable looking to score close to the hoop. Also, for a player billed as a shooter, right now Mirkovic’s shot isn’t very consistent. He was 5-of-9 from the free throw line tonight and his struggles both there and from the arc since the Stanford game are well documented.
Off this uninspired effort, NU now plays their biggest game of the season to date Sunday at Michigan. The Wolverines have been inconsistent, but they’re feeling good right now after a big comeback win over Penn State which will no doubt give them some positive momentum. Northwestern needs to forget their past few games and refocus on becoming the confident team they were in late December. If that NU team arrives in Ann Arbor the ‘Cats have a good shot at Michigan. If the team from tonight visits Chrysler Arena, I think Manny Harris will be a happy camper.