Men’s Basketball Sidebar: One-man wrecking crew needs help to knock off Big Ten foes

Rodger Sherman

It wasn’t John Shurna’s fault his team almost lost to Texas-Pan American.Shurna scored 21 points and brought down a career-high 13 rebounds. But the lack of offensive production from any other position on the floor overshadowed Shurna’s success Thursday night.”Tonight, you have one guy: Shurna,” Carmody said. “That was it.”The sophomore forward played 39 minutes, only leaving the game after he appeared to turn his ankle landing on a Texas-Pan American player. He accounted for all five of Northwestern’s 3-point baskets and was NU’s leader on the boards.Shurna recorded his first double-double of the year and brought down 12 defensive rebounds, while nobody else on the team had more than four.”Shurna presents an unbelievable problem in and of himself,” Texas-Pan American coach Ryan Marks said. “His footwork is great, his size is good, so he’s a problem posting, particularly with us posting smaller guys. He does so many things that somebody older than a sophomore does on a court.”Elsewhere on the court, no other player was able to cause problems for the Broncs.”1-for-7, 0-for-5, 1-for-9, 1-for-7,” Carmody said, reciting the shooting lines of Drew Crawford, Alex Marcotullio, Michael Thompson and Jeremy Nash, respectively. “You can’t win too many games like that.”Luka Mirkovic tallied 11 points and 11 rebounds, aided by his size advantage. The 6-foot-11 center matched up with Luis Valera, a power forward, who, listed at 6-foot-7, was the tallest player on Texas-Pan American’s roster. Mirkovic pulled in seven offensive rebounds and went to the line nine times. But fellow sophomore centers Davide Curletti and Kyle Rowley could not exploit their height differential, combining for three points, four rebounds and five personal fouls. Although the pair turned the ball over only once, Broncs players intercepted multiple entry passes to big men in the post.”Even their little guys on our big guys did quite well,” Carmody said. “They pushed us off the block, and the only guy that was effective down there was Shurna.”Offensively, the Cats’ guards were a non-factor. Crawford, Marcotullio, Nash and Thompson combined for 16 points, including 15 3-pointers attempted without a single make.”There was no zest,” Carmody said. “No life there.”The struggles were partially due to an injury to Thompson. The junior point guard, who is averaging 37.9 minutes per game, hurt his hip against Illinois and hasn’t practiced since. The injury hampered NU against Michigan State, when Thompson, the Cats’ second-leading scorer, managed only eight points on eight shots as the team fell 91-70. Against the Broncs, he managed nearly as many turnovers (5) as points (6).”He wasn’t aggressive,” Carmody said. “What’s disappointing is that the other guys on the perimeter knew he wasn’t doing well physically, and yet nobody stepped up.”In both games, Shurna had to fill Thompson’s scoring void. Against the Spartans, Shurna exploded for 29 points, with only Marcotullio joining him in double figures. Against Texas-Pan American, Shurna needed to score 16 points in the first half to keep NU competitive.But the Cats can’t continue to rely on Shurna alone.”This isn’t an individual sport.” Carmody said. “This is a team game, and we all have to play together and play better as a team.”[email protected]