Men’s Basketball: Rebounding woes, shooting slump send Northwestern to NIT exit against Washington

Dan Ryan and Dan Ryan

Northwestern traveled to Washington on Friday looking to upset a No. 1 seed in the National Invitational Tournament for the second year in a row. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, a familiar script played out in Evergreen State to their season’s conclusion a year ago – this year’s NIT exit coming one round earlier. Washington put its foot on the gas midway through the first half and never let up, defeating NU 76-55 to eliminate the Cats from the NIT. NU started out hot, matching Washington shot for shot before going on an 11-point run early to gain a 17-9 lead. The Huskies, however, took advantage of a barrage of Wildcats turnovers en route to a first half comeback and a 32-23 halftime lead. “(Washington) likes to go up and down,” senior forward John Shurna said. “They’ve got a lot of talented shooters as well as some great passers. They went on a big run there, and we gave them a lot of extra opportunities as well. It’s tough to win under any circumstance when giving up chances.” Coach Bill Carmody said he was disappointed in his team’s ball security issues throughout the game that led to 23 Washington points off turnovers. “We had 11 turnovers in the first half,” Carmody said. “We average 10 and a half per game.” Compounding NU’s problems was the lack of a second scoring option. Although Shunra finished with 24 points, Washington did a good job of keeping him off the box score for stretches of the game by committing extra defenders to the senior, but the rest of NU could not take advantage of the opportunities. “They kept the ball from (Shurna) pretty well in the first half,” Carmody said. “They had a few different bodies on him, sort of face guarding him and not caring about anything else. When that happens, you use him as a picker because you think your man won’t switch, won’t hedge, but we weren’t able to take advantage of it the way you’d like to.” The Washington run that started in the first half carried into the second, as the Huskies went on a shooting tear, hitting 6-of-11 from behind the arc. Washington also dominated NU on boards, outrebounding the Cats 44-26, including 20 offensive rebounds that led to 16 second-chance points.

The rebounding woes compounded NU’s shooting struggles as the Cats hit less than 22 percent of their shots after halftime.

“We got better in the second half, we didn’t turn it over,” Carmody said “But in the first half we shot 11-for-19. In the second half at one point we were 5-for-25. They guarded us. We weren’t making shots.” The Huskies cruised through the final minutes of the second half, making highlight reel plays on both ends of the floor while keeping the Cats at a very safe distance from their lead before the final buzzer brought NU’s season to a close. With the conclusion of the season brings the end of Shurna’s career at NU. The six-foot, nine-inch senior leaves the program as the all-time leading scorer in school history, the only NU player to ever top 2,000 points in a career. Despite Friday’s loss, Carmody had nothing but praise for his senior class of Shurna, forward Davide Curletti, center Luka Mirkovic and guard Nick Fruendt, NU’s winningest class ever. “They’ve accomplished a lot,” Carmody said. “We haven’t seen that kind of accomplishment here, and with that comes greater expectation. We weren’t able to get in the tournament, but they put us on the right path certainly.”

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