Northwestern 97, Northern Illinois 78

After a sluggish start, Northwestern pulled away in the second half to win their season opener for the third straight year. The win snapped an 8 game road losing streak dating back to last year.

As you would expect for the opening game of the season, the 'Cats looked a little rusty. Carmody came out playing man to man, but quickly switched to the 1-3-1 after falling into an early 8 point hole. The trapping zone forced a lot of turnovers and helped Northwestern get back into the game, but they still couldn't find a groove on offense and led by just 5 at halftime. But in the second half, John Shurna took over, scoring 25 of his 31 points after intermission, as the 'Cats broke it open and led by as many as 24 before emptying the bench in the final minutes.

Team and player stats after the jump...

- As noted above, John Shurna was the star of the game. He had 31 points on just 16 field goal attempts, including 7 of 10 from behind the arc. He put on a shooting clinic in the second half, hitting 2 NBA range bombs and a Kevin Coble -style off-balance three with a defender all over him. He even chipped in 9 rebounds for good measure.

- Drew Crawford added 20 points on 9 of 13, doing most of his damage slashing to the basket.

- Michael Thompson had 15 points and 6 assists, but looked a bit rusty, hitting just 3 of 10 threes and turning the ball over 3 times.

- Luka Mirkovic put up a decent looking 7 points and 10 rebounds, but he was far from decent in this game. The rebounds were mostly due to his 5 inch height advantage, and he looked incompetent in the low post, twice getting rejected by a much smaller Huskie defender. His only 3 field goals came on wide open lay-ups, it really wasn't pretty.

- Alex Marcotullio started in place of the injured JerShon Cobb, who was held out with a minor hip flexor injury. Cobb dressed for the game and warmed up with the team, so his injury can't be serious at all.

- Jeff Ryan provided solid minutes off the bench, and looks as if he's developed an outside jump shot, making a 15 footer and a top of the key three, his only 2 field goal attempts in 14 minutes. It would be a huge boost if he could consistently add offensive production off the bench.

- Davide Curletti looked decent offensively, scoring 9 points in 18 minutes, but only managed 1 rebound against NIU's diminutive front line

Despite Mirkovic's struggles, there was a lot to like on offense; 97 points is the highest total of the Bill Carmody era, and it came on just 74 possessions. The shooting percentages were all excellent, 20 of 37 from 2, 15 of 33 from three, and 12 of 14 from the line.  NU also did a nice job on the offensive glass, rebounding 15 of their 35 misses.

On defense, it wasn't so good. They did force 19 turnovers, but that was more due to NIU's poor play than anything the 'Cats did well. They also allowed the Huskies to shoot 52% from the field and attempt 28 free throws, both far too high. The complete inability to play man to man was also very discouraging,

There's certainly plenty of room for improvement, but I'm not going to complain too much about 19 point road win, even if it was over a bad team. Next up: a road game versus an even worse team, the Texas-Pan American Broncs, who got blown out 69-46 by Indiana State tonight.

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