John Shurna scored 28 points, Michael Thompson added 23, and Luka Mirkovic posted his first double-double of the season to lead Northwestern to a 78-62 win over American.
The 'Cats jumped out to an early lead behind the brilliance of Shurna, but thanks to some sloppy defense and hot American shooting, the lead was only 4 at the half. In the second half though, Northwestern clamped down defensively, opened up a double digit lead, and cruised to victory.
Northwestern shot 50% from the field for the second straight game, and as usual didn't turn it over very much. American played man-to-man defense nearly the entire game, and did a good job covering the 3-point line, as the 'Cats only attempted 16 threes (making 7). Instead, they worked the ball inside and got to the line a lot, and unlike the past two games, hit their free throws (21 of 25).
- John Shurna is playing out of his mind right now. To wit, he hit 9 of 14 field goals and 3 of 6 three pointers last night, and his effective field goal percentage went down. After a dominant first half, Shurna was quiet for a while in the 2nd half before hitting a 30 footer to beat the shot clock buzzer (and he is so locked in right now, I was pretty confident the shot was going in when he released it), and a ridiculous and-one leaner that defied logic. Seriously, that shot going in made less sense than former Gopher Kris Humphries dating Kim Kardashian. Shurna also made 7 of 8 free throws, bouncing back from a poor showing at the line on Monday. Free throw shooting (currently 70%) is the only thing holding him back right now; his eFG% of 77.97 is so high that opponents would be better off giving him two free throws than allowing him to get a shot off.
- Juice Thompson had a sneaky 23 points in Shurna's shadow, hitting 4 of 6 threes and contributing his usual solid floor game. He seems quicker and more effective attacking the basket than he did last year, and while that may simply be due to playing against weak competition, it would really be nice if he became more of a threat to score off the dribble.
- Drew Crawford was a total non-factor on offense, scoring only 4 points in 22 minutes. The good news was that he didn't force up shots outside of the offense (well, except for one contested 16 foot leaner that he missed badly), and he handed out 5 assists against no turnovers.
- Luka had a solid game with 11 points and 11 rebounds, and was finally able to use his size advantage effectively. He was all over the place on the glass, and confidently attacked the rim after catching it inside. 5 of 6 from the foul line was also a nice surprise, hopefully he can keep that up.
- The role players were generally solid last night, as JerShon Cobb played solid defense in his 28 minutes, Alex Marcotullio had 3 assists and 3 steals, and even Mike Capocci pitched in with a lefty hook in the post and a beautiful backdoor feed for a lay-up. Davide Curletti was brutal though, failing to record a point, rebound or assist and committing 3 fouls and a turnover in his 13 minutes. Curletti is now averaging nearly 10 fouls per 40 minutes, not a stat that bodes well for conference play.
Next up for Northwestern: the MSG Holiday Festival on Monday against St. Francis (NY) at Madison Square Garden.