Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

75° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Men’s Basketball: Cats roll against Hoosiers, 93-81

For a sputtering Northwestern squad and its injured star, Sunday’s win was just what the doctor ordered.

From the opening tip, the Wildcats dominated the Hoosiers on both sides of the ball and, after staving off a late comeback attempt, NU came away with a 93-81 victory. It was the Cats’ first conference win in four tries.

“After the game against Illinois, it was tough,” coach Bill Carmody said. “We were pretty down, as we should be. I wasn’t sure exactly what was going to happen, but our guys came out and moved the ball around really nicely in the first half and defended better than we did the other night.”

On Thursday the Cats found themselves on the wrong side of history, as the Illini completed a school-record 70.5 percent of their field goals. Even though Indiana had shot well this season – coming into Sunday’s game the Hoosiers ranked third in the conference with a 48.5 percent clip from the field – Indiana couldn’t crack NU’s matchup zone, struggling to 28 first-half points.

“In the first half we did a nice job defensively,” Carmody said.

While NU’s defense held Indiana’s offense quiet, the Cats’ shooters found their stride on the other end of the court. After sitting out the final 17 minutes of NU’s loss to Illinois in order to rest his injured ankle, junior forward John Shurna did not waste any time Sunday. He nailed a three-pointer less than four minutes into the game to give NU (10-4, 1-3 Big Ten) a 7-5 advantage. One minute later Shurna put away another long ball. The Cats went up 10-7 and led the rest of the game.

Although Shurna is still not completely healthy – he uncharacteristically airballed a wide open pull-up jumper midway through the first half – he was key to NU’s offensive rhythm.

“It helps when (Shurna’s) out there,” Carmody said. “He made some shots, and he penetrated a few times, got into the lane and got fouled. That helps so they can’t press up so much.”

Not only did Shurna lead the way for NU with a game-high 24 points, he also played as an integral cog in the Cats’ increased cutting. After Indiana narrowed NU’s lead to eight midway through the first half, Shurna found senior guard Michael Thompson slashing through the Hoosiers’ defense. Thompson made the layup and the ensuing free throw. Five minutes earlier Thompson had converted a similar cut, that time taking the pass from sophomore guard Alex Marcotullio.

“They were overplaying pretty hard on the wing at the top of the key, so when we had the opportunity and we saw the opening, we just dribbled at them and used our backdoor cuts,” Marcotullio said. “Even if the pass wasn’t there, it gets everything moving and revolving, just like getting the ball down. Our offense is based on movement and getting each other shots, so that really opened up everything.”

After averaging just less than 65 points in their first three conference contests, the Cats notched their second-highest point total of the season, only scoring more against Northern Illinois in their season opener. NU nailed 49 percent of its shots from the field Sunday, a significant improvement following 32 and 34 percent performances against Michigan State and Illinois, respectively.

Part of the difference was junior center Luka Mirkovic. Mirkovic recorded 16 points in NU’s loss at Purdue, then regressed against Michigan State and Illinois, scoring a combined eight points. On Sunday, Mirkovic managed a career-best 20 points to go along with 12 rebounds.

Mirkovic’s last points, coming on a tip-in and free throw with 40 seconds remaining, dashed any last hope for an Indiana comeback. Led by hot-handed sophomore Christian Watford, who scored eight points in a two-minute span, the Hoosiers slowly chipped away at a 24-point lead. Indiana got within nine, but Mirkovic’s tip-in of an errant Thompson layup effectively put the game out of reach.

With NU moving out of the Big Ten basement, two teams remain winless in conference play – Indiana and Iowa. The Cats travel to Iowa City, Iowa, on Wednesday to take on the Hawkeyes, and they’re hoping to take their newfound momentum with them.

“Basically the way that we practice, that’s how you’re going to play,” Mirkovic said. “If you practice poorly, most likely you’re not going to have a good game. But we’re really excited for practice tomorrow and next game. It’s going to be good.”

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Men’s Basketball: Cats roll against Hoosiers, 93-81