Men’s Basketball: Balanced scoring spurs Northwestern to Iowa victory

Dan Ryan

In Northwestern’s wins against Nebraska and Illinois, senior forward John Shurna asserted himself for the Wildcats, scoring a combined 52 points and willing his team to victory.

Thursday’s contest against Iowa proved he does not have to do it all on his own.

The Cats had five players in double figures in their 84-63 win against the Hawkeyes while freshman guard Dave Sobolewski paced the team with 23 points.

Junior guard Alex Marcotullio said the balance on offense was long overdue.

“Teams have been keying on John and Drew (Crawford) all year,” Marcotullio said “It’s just time for other players to step up. Reggie (Hearn) had a great game against Illinois, had another great game (Thursday). I made some shots (Thursday), and Dave’s been great for us all year, running the team and just being a solid leader on the floor.”

While Shurna and Crawford combined for 28 points and hit clutch shots in their time on the floor, it was the play of Sobolewski, Hearn and Marcotullio that sealed the game for NU.

Sobolewski set the tone for the Cats on offense, taking advantage of Iowa missteps on defense and pushing the ball to the rim on three different fastbreaks.

“They had guys back, they just didn’t see the ball,” Sobolewski said. “A lot of times I was left bringing the ball up one-on-one. It’s really hard to stop guys when you got a full head of steam playing one-on-one.”

Thursday’s game also saw the continued excellent play of Hearn, who had 16 points to bring his total in the last three contests to 45. Marcotullio’s 13 points were the icing on the cake for a balanced NU attack.

“(Drew and John) are at the top of other teams’ scouting reports,” Marcotullio said. “It was said that we could step up and hit some shots, just do everything else. Rebound, make plays for others. We stepped up pretty well tonight.”

Although the Cats were opportunistic at times, attacking the basket and taking open looks, patience on offense proved key in the blowout win.

Entering the game, the Hawkeyes ranked first in the Big Ten in steals, averaging 8 per game. NU turned the tables on their conference foe, forcing Iowa into an uncharacteristic 18 turnovers and taking advantage of an overly aggressive Iowa offense while keeping a level head on the other end of the floor.

“Dave set a nice pace for us,” Marcotullio said. “We knew they like to push the ball, but we ran it back at them a few times, and we took our opportunities when we had them. And when we didn’t, we brought the ball out, ran our offense and executed well.”

Turnovers have been problematic for NU in the past, most notably in the team’s 16-turnover performance in its loss against Purdue. Coach Bill Carmody pointed to the Cats’ protecting the basketball as the deciding factor in Thursday’s contest.

“I like the way we took care of the basketball tonight,” Carmody said. “That was the main thing.”

For a team needing to put together a string of late-season victories to finally realize its NCAA Tournament dreams, the Cats demonstrated improvement in areas where they have struggled in the past, which is especially important with two road games against Purdue and Indiana on the slate next week.

“We’ve played decently all year, to tell you the truth,” Carmody said. “We’ve had some rough games on the road, and we lost some real heartbreakers. But I think it’s a good team, but now we play two games on the road, so we’ll see.”

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