In another too-close-for-comfort game, the Wildcats managed to hold off the Iowa Hawkeyes, winning in Welsh-Ryan by a score of 73-70. When they played in Iowa City, the ‘Cats jumped out to a quick start and cruised to a 19-point blowout. This time, they again started hot but had to rely on a balanced effort to pull off the series sweep.
Stat of the game | Four Wildcats in double-figures
The balance in the box score is an accurate reflection of the game. No one took over, and the game was relatively even between the two teams after Iowa overcame Northwestern’s hot start. No Wildcat hit the 20-point mark, yet four reached double-figures. Thompson led the pack with 16 points, but was followed closely by Drew Crawford and John Shurna (both with 15 points) and Luka Mirkovic (13 points). JerShon Cobb fell just short, totaling eight for the game.
Hero of the game | Michael Thompson, 16 points and nine assists
“Juice” Thompson led all Wildcats in both scoring and assists, coming tantalizingly close to a double-double. Thompson consistently attacked the Iowa defense, spinning around defenders or simply blowing past them with his speed. “I definitely have that confidence in my ability to dribble,” Thompson said after the game.
The senior captain stepping up made up for the subpar shooting nights from JerShon Cobb (who made just 3-of-9 shots) and John Shurna (who sank only five of his 13 attempts). While “Juice” is obviously the orchestrator of the offense, it’s nice to see him get involved when his team needs him. His well-timed drives gave the ‘Cats some points when they needed them, allowing them to stay ahead of Iowa throughout the second half. He was also efficient, making half of his shots and tallying nine assists without a single turnover.
Turning point | John Shurna’s dunk, 18:12 left in the second half
Northwestern started the game off well, jumping out to a 13-point first half lead. Then, as it always seems to happen with Northwestern sports, Iowa got back into the game, briefly taking a lead before Northwestern went into the half up by a basket.
At the start of the second half, the two teams traded baskets until John Shurna’s emphatic dunk less than two minutes in. He drew the foul and the crowd went wild, but Shurna missed the free throw. On the next offensive play, Drew Crawford flew in for a layup and a foul, converting the three-point play. While Northwestern didn’t go on a run to blow the game wide-open, the Wildcats never trailed after Shurna’s dunk. The slam jolted the crowd to life. It kept that energy for the remainder of the game, feeding the team and reminding everyone that Northwestern basketball is fun to watch for a reason.
Where to improve | Fast breaks
The fast break is an opportunity to get some team momentum and to get the crowd going. Northwestern wasted at least three fast break opportunities, and in such a close game those simple layups could have really made a difference. On one instance, Alex Marcotullio stole the ball and speed-dribbled down the floor before deciding at the last minute to turn around and attempt a pass to Crawford’s ankles, who bobbled the catch out of bounds. On another break, Thompson took it the length of the floor before missing the layup. The easy points could have taken this game from classic ‘Cats to a comfortable victory.