Amazingly Northwestern had actually pulled off more close wins on the road than at home this season (see: Penn State, Iowa, and Illinois) tonight though the Wildcats managed to pull off a 76-74 victory over Akron and now move on to play in the second round of the NIT for the second straight year. This win also gives the Wildcats 19 total wins on the season which leaves them one win away from a school record three straight 20 win seasons. At this point it’s unclear when NU will be playing again, but I’ll post that as soon as I learn.
As far as tonight’s game goes, this was really all about the Wildcats two stars John Shurna and Drew Crawford winning the game for the their team with some solid support from JerShon Cobb who provided 19 points, but the rest of the ‘Cats pretty much just seemed to stand around and watch those guys play offense. I will give point guard Dave Sobolewski credit for a game with 5 assists and only 1 turnover in 32 minutes, but after a terrible shooting day against Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament it now looks like Sobo is reluctant to shoot the ball. No matter who NU plays in the next round of the NIT, I think Sobo will need to step up as will Reggie Hearn, Alex Marcotullio, and Davide Curletti. The ‘Cats won’t be able to pull off another game with just Shurna, Crawford, and Cobb scoring.
For what it’s worth, though, I thought it was a great game by Drew Crawford who pulled his typical Houdini magic and reappeared after disappearing in the Big Ten Tournament against Minnesota. It would be amazing if Crawford were consistent at all or even if his bad games just weren’t so bad. An average game from Drew would be fine, but being so erratic won’t help if he’s expected to be the star next season. Still, today he was very good with 27 points and 7 rebounds and was really the guy who got the ‘Cats going in this game.
Equally good was John Shurna who posted a double-double with 23 points and 11 rebounds, also added seven assists and hit the 2,000 point mark for his career. His work was even more impressive in considering that he was facing 7-0 Zeke Marshall who at one point was a top-50 recruit. I’ll be honest while Marshall had a nice game with 17 and 7, I thought he’d be much more of a factor which is why I thought the ‘Cats were in trouble in this contest. I’m glad I was off on that prediction. NU will also face size from whatever team they play next so it’s a good sign they didn’t let Marshall totally have his way and Shurna deserves credit for that. If this was John’s last home game (and I hope it’s not) it was a great way for the Wildcats all-time leading scorer and shot blocker to go out. But I hope NU’s fans get to see him in Welsh-Ryan again.
As noted above the only Wildcat who really provided a supporting role today was JerShon Cobb. I’m convinced that if Cobb had been healthy this NU team was NCAA Tournament material. But that’s just more bad NU luck. On the positive side, Cobb made some shots today that I can’t remember another NU player making. The most impressive was a step-back jump shot when the ‘Cats had fallen behind which gave NU back the lead. Also, fantastic was a drive were he reversed in a layup. Cobb’s got big time potential and him being hurt really did limit NU for the season’s first 2/3s.
I’ll look forward to seeing what happens in the second round of the NIT to NU. Last year’s second round game vs Boston College was one of the best games the ‘Cats played all year. Hopefully we’ll see a similar result this season.