Dec. 18, 2011
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Site: Evanston, Ill. (Welsh-Ryan Arena)
Score: Northwestern 87, Eastern Illinois 72
Records: NU (10-1), Eastern Illinois (6-4)
Next NU Event: Thursday, Dec. 22 -- at Creighton (Omaha, Neb.), 7:05 p.m.
EVANSTON, Ill. -- John Shurna scored a game-high 32 points and tied a school record by knocking down nine 3-pointers as Northwestern pulled away from Eastern Illinois in the second half for an 87-72 victory at Welsh-Ryan Arena Sunday evening.
Shurna connected on 9-of-12 attempts from 3-point range and tied Craig Moore's record for makes that he set at Brown Nov. 22, 2008. The nine makes are one shy of the Big Ten record of 10 held by Ohio State's Jon Diebler and Michigan State's Chris Hill.
Luka Mirkovic contributed his second-consecutive all-around game. He finished three assists shy of a triple-double, posting 18 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. It's the seventh career double-double for the senior center.
The win improves the Wildcats to 10-1 on the season, matching the second-best start in program history. NU also started 10-1 in the 1982-93 and 2009-10 seasons, trailing only the 1930-31 squad which opened with a school-record 12 straight wins.
After going just 1-of-9 from 3-point range in Saturday's victory over Central Connecticut State, Shurna came out on fire in this particular contest. The senior forward hit six of his first eight attempts from beyond the arc over the opening 12 minutes of play en route to scoring 18 points. His sixth connection gave the Wildcats a 27-21 advantage, but the hosts were unable to distance themselves from the Panthers.
NU showed some effects of playing its third game in four days as Eastern Illinois was able to shoot 50 percent from the field over the opening 20 minutes of play.
The Panthers cut their deficit to one four times over the final seven minutes of the stanza. A steal and a layup by JerShon Cobb just prior to the first-half buzzer gave Northwestern a 41-36 lead at the intermission.
The Wildcats came out of the locker room with better defensive pressure to open the second half as they were able to extend their lead. Shurna matched his career high with his seventh 3-pointer two minutes into the period.
When Cobb drove baseline and scored, it gave NU its largest lead, 54-44, with 13:35 remaining, forcing the Panthers to burn a timeout.
After the Wildcats forced a turnover on the other end, Mirkovic completed a three-point play to stretch the advantage to 13. Eastern Illinois would creep back within eight with six minutes to go, but Shurna connected on his record-tying triple, igniting a 9-0 run that put the game out of reach.
NU shot a blistering 60.7 percent from the field (17-28) in the second half.
In addition to his 32 points, Shurna dished out five assists and had two blocked shots. He vaulted three spots on Northwestern's career scoring list in the game, moving into fourth place with 1,592 points.
Drew Crawford stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, seven rebounds, six assists, three blocked shots and three steals. In all, Northwestern posted 26 assists in the game and shot 54.2 percent from the field. Jeremy Granger led the Panthers with 22 points and six assists.
Northwestern returns to action at 7:05 p.m. Thursday as it travels to Omaha, Neb., to face Creighton.
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