Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wildcats Pass Georgia Tech’s Challenge to move to 6-0

John Shurna started hot to get Northwestern an early lead and played an all around excellent game both on offense and defense to lead Northwestern to a 76-60 win over Georgia Tech. The win was Northwestern’s fourth straight in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge meaning that Shurna’s class went 4-0 in the event.

Shurna scored 25 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. I also thought he did a great job on defense as he grabbed three steals which helped result in some of NU’s 17 fast break points. On defense Shurna played both 6-11 center Daniel Miller and athletic forward Glen Rice, Jr. at various times in NU’s man-to-man. I thought it was impressive how Shurna handled the various skills of both players well and kept them contained. I think it is also huge that Shurna showed up so well on defense as it shows the emphasis that NU must be placing on defense this season. It would be real easy for a scorer like Shurna to take an easy on the other end of the court, but he doesn’t and the result is nothing but positive for the ‘Cats.

Another area where I thought NU looked good in this game was bench production. Tonight, Alex Marcotullio was the leader off the bench as JerShon Cobb was held out after not passing a post-concussion test after suffering a head injury in the game against Stony Brook. Marcotullio had 7 points, 2 steals, and 3 rebounds. He also showed his usual good understanding off the offensive system and it seems the team really plays well when he comes on the court. Along with Marcotullio his fellow Michigan-native Davide Curletti also stepped up off the bench. He became the first NU center this season to hit a three which is huge in NU’s offense and he got four rebounds as well. After the issues Curletti and fellow center Luka Mirkovic had versus Stony Brook it was nice to see them both do well tonight. Mirkovic ended the day with 13 points and three rebounds. If NU gets 18 points total from their centers (as they also did versus Seton Hall) they will win. Can they win with less? Yeah, but it’s so much tougher. The center position is really critical to NU’s success.

Also critical to NU’s success is continued strong play of guard Dave Sobolewksi. I know the Rivals boards have had some debate about Sobolewski, but some of that seemed spurred by animosity amongst posters as much as any debate on Sobolewski’s skill level. After all, I think he’s more than proven he can play. Not only did he post a 6-to-1 assist to turnover night, but he made some moves to the hoop tonight that I didn’t see Juice Thompson make until he was a more experienced player. The area where Dave still might need to get more consistent is three point shooting, but he’s got that skill in his tool kit as evidenced by his early shots against Stony Brook and his big three versus LSU.

Before closing, I also want to draw attention to Drew Crawford’s 14 points and 3 steals and Reggie Hearn’s 5 rebounds. I’m certain both players would admit they could play better with Crawford having some turnover issues and Hearn missing a couple threes that I expect him to knock down, but they both contributed to the win. Also, my compliments to guard Omar Jimenez a Georgia-native who scored the first two points of his career tonight. That was pretty cool. Now, NU is ready to face Mississippi Valley State on Friday before a huge game vs Baylor Sunday.

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