Dec. 19, 2009
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Skip Myslenski's Postgame Reaction
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EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern took a 39-37 lead with 16 minutes remaining in the game and never trailed again, downing Stanford 70-62 Saturday at Welsh-Ryan Arena on the strength of 22 points by sophomore John Shurna. NU has won eight consecutive contests and is now 9-1 to start the season for the first time since the 1993-94 campaign.
NU's changing defenses helped dictate the pace of the game and pressured the visitors into 18 turnovers, well above Stanford's season average of 12 per outing. The Cardinal came into the game with a +5 average turnover margin, but on Saturday they visitors committed 10 more miscues than Northwestern.
In a back-and-forth contest throughout, Northwestern and Stanford entered the halftime locker room tied at 33 despite a 2-for-15 3-point shooting effort by the Wildcats over the opening 20 minutes. The first half saw 10 lead changes and four ties with neither team able to build larger than a five-point advantage. Shurna led the way with his six first-half field goals and scored seven of the last 10 NU points of the half.
Shurna proceeded to open the second-half scoring with a layup off a feed by Luka Mirkovic, one of Mirkovic's team-high five assists on the day. With the game still in question and Northwestern leading 49-48 at the 8:40 mark, NU went on an 11-2 run over a three-minute span to take a commanding 60-50 lead. Shurna and Mirkovic connected on consecutive 3-pointers for NU, bringing the Welsh-Ryan Arena crowd to its feet.
Stanford (5-5) was saddled with foul trouble through most of the second half, at one point seeing four of its five starters go to the bench with four fouls. But the Cardinal nearly came all the way back, getting to within one point at 60-59 behind nine straight points by Jeremy Green.
Point guard Michael Thompson, who finished the afternoon with 15 points and four assists, hit the biggest of the game with 1:23 to play as he nailed a 3-pointer from the wing off a feed from from Mirkovic. Green was off the mark on a 3-pointer on the other end and Shurna dove for the loose ball on the floor and got a timeout to give the Wildcats possession.
NU connected on six straight free throws down the stretch to lock up the win.
Freshman Drew Crawford added 12 points to join Shurna and Thompson in double figures for Northwestern. Stanford's Landry Fields led all scorers with 24 points.
The Wildcats wrap up the primary portion of their nonconference schedule Tuesday as the host Central Connecticut State. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.