Feb. 5, 2012
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Site: Champaign, Ill. (Assembly Hall)
Score: Northwestern 74, Illinois 70
Records: NU (14-8, 4-6 Big Ten), Illinois (16-7, 5-5 Big Ten)
Next NU Event: Thursday, Feb. 9 -- vs. Iowa (Welsh-Ryan Arena), 8 p.m.
Tickets: Available at NUsports.com or by calling 888-GO-PURPLE
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- John Shurna scored 17 of his game-high 24 points in the second half and Reggie Hearn added 16 of his career-high 20 in the opening stanza as Northwestern made the winning plays down the stretch to post a 74-70 victory over Illinois at Assembly Hall Sunday afternoon.
NU shot 60.4 percent from the field in the contest (29-48), including 66.7 percent (14-21) in the second half.
Shurna surpassed Evan Eschmeyer to move into second place on Northwestern's career scoring list in the contest.
The Wildcats rode the red-hot shooting of Hearn early on. The junior scored 10 of Northwestern's first 15 points, all of them consecutively, as he made each of his first four early field goal attempts.
When John Shurna connected on a triple, it gave NU an 18-9 lead with 13:35 remaining in the half. Four straight points by Illinois cut the Wildcats' lead to five, but Hearn responded with another trey to push the advantage back to eight.
An 8-2 run by the Fighting Illini cut Northwestern's lead to 23-21, forcing the visitors to burn a timeout with 9:04 left in the stanza. Brandon Paul hit a trio of first-half 3-pointers, helping Illinois tie the game 29-29 with 4:20 remaining.
The teams traded the next eight points before Hearn capped off his stellar period by knocking down his fourth triple in as many attempts to help give NU a 36-33 lead at the break.
Illinois would notch six of the first eight points of the second half as Joseph Bertrand's layup gave the hosts their first lead, 39-38.
The Wildcats were frigid from the field to open the half as they had scored just two points until Shurna answered Bertrand's 3-pointer with one of his own to get NU within 42-41 with 11:38 left.
Illinois threatened to build a lead, but Shurna had the answer every time, scoring nine consecutive points for the Wildcats before Dave Sobolewski's layup gave the 'Cats the lead back, 51-50, with 7:42 remaining.
The Illini's advantage was 54-53 when Sobolewski drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put Northwestern up by two. Tracy Abrams tied the game on a put-back, but hoops by Drew Crawford and Shurna pushed NU's lead to four.
It was a one-point lead for the Wildcats with three minutes to go when Hearn scored on a backdoor lay-in off a feed from Davide Curletti. Northwestern got consecutive defensive stops before Shurna got to the hoop and scored with 1:11 left to make it 66-61 in the visitors' favor.
NU got a third straight stop of the defensive end before Illinois was forced to foul Sobolewski with 42 seconds remaining. The freshman, who had 14 points in the contest, calmly sank two free throws to push the Wildcats' edge to seven and helping seal the win.
Alex Marcotullio had a team-high seven rebounds off the bench as the 'Cats finished with a 24-22 edge on the boards. Paul led Illinois with 22 points, while Meyers Leonard added 21.
Northwestern is back in action Thursday when it hosts Iowa at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.
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