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

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

The Daily Northwestern


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Men’s Basketball: Mirkovic proves central to Northwestern’s offense

Just more than two minutes into the second half of Sunday’s win over Indiana, Luka Mirkovic let out a roar. It’s a sight Northwestern fans have become accustomed to by now, a typical Mirkovic howl in all its chest-pumping glory.

Mirkovic had just banked in a shot from under the basket, also drawing a foul on the play. The ensuing free throw was Mirkovic’s seventh point in the first 160 seconds of the half. The junior center was on his way to a career day, and when the final buzzer sounded he had recorded 20 points in addition to racking up 12 rebounds.

After the game, coach Bill Carmody didn’t hold back in his assessment of Mirkovic’s importance to his squad, which notched 93 points Sunday – its highest total since dropping 97 on Northern Illinois in the season opener.

“If we’re going to be good at anything,” Carmody said, “we have to have an inside presence.”

The Wildcats are halfway through their regular season, and in their first 14 contests they have proved Carmody correct. In NU’s 10 victories, Mirkovic is averaging 8.9 points on 56 percent shooting. In the Cats’ four defeats, Mirkovic has averaged 6.5 points on 35.5 percent shooting. To be fair, those four losses came against some of the best teams – and biggest men – the Big Ten has to offer. In the span of one week, NU lost to Purdue and JaJuan Johnson, Michigan State and Draymond Green, and Illinois and Mike Tisdale. The trio averaged 15.7 points and 8.3 boards against the Cats while holding Mirkovic to a combined 24 points and nine rebounds.

Indiana, who boasts no one taller than 6-foot-9, had trouble stopping Mirkovic in the paint. And Mirkovic’s dominance down low opened up space for NU on the periphery. The Cats shot 49 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc, their best numbers since beating Georgia Tech on Nov. 30.

“Any time you have a post presence like Luka who’s playing well, it really opens up the game for everybody,” said junior forward John Shurna, who led all scorers with 24 points. “That gets us moving in our offense, and once we start moving and going through our offense quickly, it’s pretty tough to stop.”

NU will try to continue its hot-shooting today when it squares off against Iowa. Last time the Cats traveled to Iowa City, the nets got a workout, but it was the Hawkeyes who shot the lights out. Iowa nailed half of its shots from the field and beyond the arc. This year the Hawkeyes have struggled from the floor, averaging less than 70 points per game and ranking second-to-last in the conference in field goal percentage, shooting 43.3 percent.

The Hawkeyes’ lack of shooting is exacerbated by a lack of size. Like the Hoosiers, the Hawkeyes have no one taller than 6-foot-9. But just like 6-foot-6 Green demonstrated in Michigan State’s victory last week, sometimes size doesn’t matter.

“One common thread about all the teams in the Big Ten is that they’re really, really physical,” Mirkovic said. “If somebody’s 6-foot-9 as opposed to 6-foot-10 or 6-foot-11, it doesn’t really make a difference for me.”

In his second year as the full-time starter, Mirkovic’s numbers have made a steady improvement. He’s notched two double-doubles in the past four games after recording just five in his first two years. Still, for the Belgrade, Serbia, native, experience isn’t everything.

“Basketball is a game, and you have two baskets and a basketball,” he said. “It’s pretty much the same no matter how long you play or where you play.”

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Men’s Basketball: Mirkovic proves central to Northwestern’s offense