John Shurna set the NU scoring record on the shot which I believe was the most critical of the game. Minnesota had just cut NU’s lead to seven points, but Shurna’s record setting three from the top of the key put NU back up by ten and seemed to eliminate any chance of a Gopher comeback. It was a big moment for Shurna and this is a big win for Northwestern. Of course, as excited as one might be about this game, which I’ll admit I billed as the biggest of the year, the Michigan on Tuesday now probably replaces this contest with that billing. Playing a Michigan team coming off a win over Ohio State and that will likely be ranked in the top-15 in the nation will give NU the chance to get a win which will boost their resume significantly. I’ve been something of a doubter throughout this year, but I’ll say that if Northwestern beats Michigan on Tuesday they are an NCAA tournament team, however, that’s a tough game which is far from an automatic victory even with a great Welsh-Ryan Arena home crowd like tonight.
Aside from John Shurna’s big shot, I thought the best part of tonight’s game was JerShon Cobb. Back from his injury, Cobb was fantastic at the top or the bottom of the 1-3-1 defense. Even though he didn’t score many points, Cobb’s intense defense netted four steals and disrupted Minnesota all night. If Cobb adds some offense to his game between now and the end of the season he could be the key guy in NU’s run towards that first NCAA berth.
Obviously, once again in a key game Dave Sobolewski stepped up big time. He’s been the key to a lot of NU’s significant wins this season. Tonight, Sobo hit four three pointers and seemed to understand what was just the right time to push the ball and be aggressive. As a result, he led the team with 22 points in 35 minutes and totally out played any of Minnesota’s guards. It was in many ways Sobolewski’s best game all year despite the fact that he only dished out one assist and he’s been listed all year as one of the top assist guys in the NCAA.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the rest of the ‘Cats also contributed to the win as well. Drew Crawford made some key early shots and got a great ally-op dunk on a pass from Alex Marcotullio. Reggie Hearn played good defense and had some nice drives to the hoop and Davide Curletti took a shot and made it and played really good defense all night. This win was team effort and with the NCAA bid on the line that same effort will need to be brought on Tuesday vs Michigan.