March 13, 2012
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Site: Evanston, Ill. (Welsh-Ryan Arena)
Score: Northwestern 76, Akron 74
Records: NU (19-13), Akron (22-12)
Next NU Event: Friday, March 16 - at Washington (Seattle, Wash.), 9 p.m. CT
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Drew Crawford scored a game-high 27 points and John Shurna had a double-double with 23 points and 11 rebounds to go along with seven assists as Northwestern held off Akron for a 76-74 win in the opening round of the National Invitation Tournament Tuesday evening.
With his jumper with 6:25 left in the first half, Shurna became just the 27th Big Ten player to exceed the 2,000 career-point mark.
The senior from Glen Ellyn tied an NU program record making his 129th career appearance in a Wildcat uniform, matching Michael Thompson, while moving past Kevin Rankin as the school's all-time leader in blocked shots.
After Akron took a quick two-basket lead to start things off, it was JerShon Cobb who got NU rolling with seven straight points for the 'Cats. Shurna got into the mix early as well, knocking down two threes to extend Northwestern's lead to 10 near the 12-minute mark, keeping the `Cats a step ahead of the Zips.
But it was Crawford who lit up the court late in the first half, connecting on 8-of-10 field goals, including two from distance, to log 16 of the 'Cats final 20 points heading into halftime. The Wildcats led by as many as 15 points in the opening stanza, but the Zips scored the last seven points to close to within 42-34 at the break.
Crawford picked up the second half right were he left off and knocked down another 3-pointer, but things went cold for the Wildcats, who remained scoreless for the next seven minutes. Akron used an early 9-0 run to sneak its way back into the game and eventually took a 51-49 lead with 12:54 left in the game, its first of the night.
The two squads battled back-and-forth through much of the second stanza, but a 3-pointer by Shurna put the 'Cats up 73-70 with 2:20 left in the heated contest. Akron then hit three free throws to knot things up at 73 apiece with a 1:49 left, but Shurna struck again from distance with his fifth triple of the night, giving the Wildcats another three-point advantage with under a minute remaining.
After Northwestern forced a miss, the Wildcats were fouled with 12.1 seconds remaining, but missed on the front end of the bonus giving the Zips one more chance.
NU opted to not let Akron shoot for the tie, instead fouling with 3.7 seconds left. Quincy Diggs made the first free throw to cut the visitors' deficit to two. He missed the second shot intentionally and the ball went out of bounds off the 'Cats giving the Zips once last chance with 3.5 seconds to go.
Alex Abreau forced up a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer, but it bounced off the rim, allowing Northwestern to escape.
Cobb finished the game with 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field. The Zips were paced on the night by 18 points from Diggs and 17 points from Zeke Marshall.
Northwestern advances to the second round of the NIT where it will face top-seeded Washington in Seattle. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m. Central time Friday.
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