Sunday, November 20, 2011

Northwestern Overcomes 15-0 Seton Hall Run to Hold on For Charleston Classic Title

Early in the second half of the Charleston Classic Title Game between Northwestern and Seton Hall it seemed Northwestern was in control. However, a 15-0 Seton Hall run put the Pirates up and forced Northwestern to have to play from behind. With great leadership from John Shurna and Drew Crawford Northwestern responded to that adversity and eventually regained the lead and held on at the end thanks to clutch free throw shooting from Shurna, Davide Curletti, and Alex Marcotullio to post an 80-73 win. This is Northwestern’s second in-season tournament title in the last three seasons joining the 2009 win of the Chicago Invitational Challenge against Iowa State.

What really makes this a good win besides beating another team (like Tulsa) which could compete for an at-large NCAA-bid is the fact that NU got production from several key supporting players to get the win. Most notably and most importantly Luka Mirkovic scored 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting and contributed 2 assists. He struggled somewhat on defense, but he made enough of an impact that he stopped NU from having to just be the John Shurna and Drew Crawford show. Developing that third scoring option will help NU when Big Ten play starts. If Mirkovic can hit some three pointers he’ll become a serious scoring threat as that shot will be open for the center in Northwestern’s offense on most nights. Credit also has to go to Luka’s tag-team partner at center Davide Curletti who also did a nice job in tonight’s game. Not only did he make some key free throws, but he contributed 3 assists and had a huge block of SHU star Herb Pope late in the game.

Also contributing off the bench was Alex Marcotullio. Marcotullio clearly has an excellent understanding of the Princeton Offense and made some extremely tough passes to setup teammates for easy backdoor layups. He also did a nice job at the top of the 1-3-1 which while it didn’t cause turnovers did somewhat slowdown SHU’s offense, though, Herb Pope never was completely stopped. Another member of the supporting cast who deserves note is guard Dave Sobolewski. Although the freshman guard had some trouble defending Seton Hall’s Jordan Theodore, he once again played heavy minutes and kept possession of the ball. In 31 minutes Sobolewski had 2 assists and 0 turnovers.

In the end, though, you have to once again say that NU’s leaders were John Shurna and Drew Crawford. They’ve both developed their game over the summer and the evidence of that is clear as each has shown the ability not only to hit threes, but also to score at the hoop. Crawford led the way with 27 points and was tournament MVP. He made 4-of-8 threes (including one he banked in with the shot clock running out) and also grabbed six rebounds. Shurna scored 19 points and most importantly made all his free throws which were often occurring when NU desperately needed points. He also had 7 rebounds and 4 blocks.

With both Crawford and Shurna showing the ability to score heavy point totals NU is getting tougher to defend and if Luka Mirkovic starts hitting his threes the ‘Cats will become nearly unstoppable. Now at 4-0 NU will play a home game on Friday against Stony Brook in Evanston, and then they go back on the road to play Georgia Tech who was also in the Charleston Classic. Clearly the early season is presenting Northwestern with chances to get solid wins over BCS-conference or tournament-level teams and so far they’ve taken advantage. Hopefully that will continue as boosting the tournament resume early in the year is something which bubble teams have to do.

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