Brenda Bazan photo
Northwestern forward John Shurna is given a hug and a ceremonial basketball by former all-time points record holder by Billy McKinney prior to the start of his team’s game against Michigan.
By Larry Peterson
EVANSTON — On Saturday, February 18, the Northwestern Wildcats defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 64-53, in a game that had great significance. Northwestern, 16-10 overall and 6-8 in the Big Ten improved their slight hopes for an NCAA Tournament bid. The Wildcats have never qualified for the Tournament.
John Shurna, Northwestern’s 6-foot-9 senior forward provided the Welsh-Ryan Arena crowd with a record breaking shot. At the 10:48 mark of the second half, Shurna swished a three-point bucket giving him 1,902 points for his career, breaking the 35-year-old school scoring record of 1,900 points held by Billy McKinney.
The modest Shurna said, “It’s obviously an honor, but more important is that we defended our home court against a tough Minnesota team.”
The Wildcats’ hopes for the NCAA Tournament bid suffered a setback Tuesday, Feb. 21 when they dropped a hotly contested 67-55 overtime showdown with the Michigan Wolverines at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston.
Northwestern trailed by as many as seven points in the first half until they tied the score at 22 with five minutes remaining. With a 9-2 run in the final four minutes the ’Cats took a 31-24 lead at the break.
Michigan scored two quick buckets to open the second half and then they battled on even terms for the next 14 minutes. The Wolverines grabbed a brief one-point lead with four minutes left in regulation.
A trey by Reggie Hearn and a layup by Shurna gave Northwestern a 47-43 lead. A triple by the Wolverines Trey Burk, followed by a Shurna jumper with two minutes left put the ’Cats ahead 49-46. With 1:41 on the clock Tim Hardaway Jr. nailed a three-pointer to knot the score at 49.
After a series of missed shots by both teams, Michigan’s Burk missed a long range attempt at the buzzer and the game went to overtime. The Wolverines rattled off nine straight points in the first three minutes of the extra session while the Wildcats were held scoreless and the issue was no longer in doubt.
Michigan went ahead by 12 points and the win on eight free throws when the Wildcats fouled playing catch-up ball.
Northwestern coach Bill Carmody couldn’t explain the second half letdown. He said, “We came out with energy in the first half, but we didn’t have it in the second half. This would have been a big win for us, but the loss doesn’t knock us out of the box.”
Michigan head coach John Beilein supplied positives for the Wildcats. He said, “I have great respect for Northwestern. They play hard and they have a good basketball team. We had to go to overtime twice to beat them. Change a couple of plays and we could have been 0-2 against them and they’re in the NCAA Tournament. Do they deserve to be in the tournament? Absolutely.”
Another positive was a 67-66 win at Penn State last Saturday. Next up is Ohio State at home Feb. 29, and then the regular season finale at Iowa on Monday, March 5. Finally, the Big Ten Tournament is in Indianapolis, March 8-11.