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    Wildcats and Zips Square Off in NIT Opening Round Tuesday

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM John Shurna needs just nine points to become the 27th player in Big Ten history with 2,000 career points.
    John Shurna needs just nine points to become the 27th player in Big Ten history with 2,000 career points.

    March 12, 2012

    #4 Northwestern (18-13) vs. #5 Akron (22-11)
    Tuesday, March 13, 2012
    Welsh-Ryan Arena (8,117)
    Evanston, Ill. • 8 p.m.
    ESPN2 (Mike Patrick and Fran Fraschilla)
    Streaming Video:
    Audio: WIND 560 AM and (Dave Eanet and Shon Morris); WNUR 89.3 FM and
    In-game Twitter updates: @NU_SportsLIVE
    Northwestern Game Notes (PDF)

    EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern makes its fourth-consecutive postseason appearance and seventh overall in the National Invitation Tournament on Tuesday when it hosts Akron in an opening-round matchup at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.

    The Wildcats came up just shy of a trip to Madison Square Garden for the NIT semifinals a year ago, falling at Washington State in overtime in the quarterfinal round.



    NU was eliminated from last week's Big Ten tournament with a 75-68 overtime loss to Minnesota in Thursday's opening round. JerShon Cobb paced the Wildcats with career highs of 24 points and eight rebounds while John Shurna contributed 21 points.

    Shurna, NU's all-time leading scorer, needs just nine points to become the 27th player in Big Ten history to score 2,000 career points.

    Series History: This is the first meeting between the Wildcats and the Zips. Northwestern is 47-17 all-time against current members of the Mid-American Conference. NU's last meeting with a MAC foe was a 97-78 win at Northern Illinois Nov. 12, 2010.

    • The Zips (22-11, 13-3 Mid-American Conference) were the MAC East Division regular-season champions and advanced to the conference tournament championship game where they dropped a 64-63 decison to Ohio.
    • Junior center Zeke Marshall leads a very balanced Akron scoring effort with an average of 10.2 points to game to go along with 5.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocked shots per contest. The Zips have six players who average at least 8.2 points per game.
    • Akron's appearance in the MAC tournament title game was its sixth consecutive. The Zips have won at least 20 games in each of the last seven seasons.
    • Keith Dambrot is in his eighth season as the head coach at Akron where he has a 184-86 record. He is 292-156 in 14 overall seasons as a head coach.

    Northwestern is making its fourth-consecutive postseason appearance, a school record. This is the second straight year that the Wildcats are hosting an NIT game. A year ago, they defeated Milwaukee 70-61 in an opening-round contest on their way to the quarterfinals where they were eliminated by Washington State in overtime. This is the seventh NIT appearance for Northwestern, while Akron is in the NIT for the fifth time.
    3/17/83 - vs. Notre Dame (Rosemont, Ill.); W, 71-57
    3/21/83 - at DePaul; L, 65-63
    3/16/94 - DePaul; W, 69-68
    3/21/94 - Xavier; L, 83-79 (OT)
    3/16/99 - at DePaul; L, 69-64
    3/18/09 - at Tulsa; L, 68-59
    3/17/10 - at Rhode Island; L, 76-64
    3/16/11 - Milwaukee; W, 70-61
    3/19/11 - at Boston College; W, 85-67
    3/23/11 - at Washington State; L, 69-66 (OT)

    Senior forward John Shurna is already Northwestern's all-time leading scorer and comes into Tuesday's contest just nine points shy of 2,000 for his career. If he reaches the milestone, he would be the 27th player in Big Ten history to score 2,000 career points. In addition, the contest will be Shurna's 129th career game, matching Michael Thompson for the school record. Shurna is also tied with Kevin Rankin for the top spot in NU history with 133 blocked shots.

    Three Northwestern players were recognized when the Big Ten's postseason honors were announced March 5. Senior forward John Shurna was a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection. He is the first Wildcat to be named to the first team since Jitim Young in 2004. Shurna had previously earned second-team honors as a sophomore and was a third-team pick of the coaches a year ago. Junior forward Drew Crawford was a consensus third-team all-league pick. Crawford was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick in 2010. In addition, guard Dave Sobolewski earned a Big Ten All-Freshman Team selection. He is the fourth NU player to earn the honor in the last seven seasons.

    John Shurna finished conference play with a scoring average of 20.0 points per game to claim the Big Ten scoring crown. He edged Penn State's Tim Frazier who finished second at 19.6 points per game. Northwestern had not had an individual lead the Big Ten in scoring since Ray Ragelis in 1951. Two years ago, Shurna finished merely one point shy of surpassing Ohio State's Evan Turner for the scoring title.

    For all of the recognition that John Shurna gets for his scoring, he has proven that he's a solid all-around player as well. Shurna currently is tied for first in NU history with 133 career blocked shots, including a career-high five against Minnesota Feb. 18 and again at Penn State Feb. 25. His 52 blocks this season are the second most in a single season in school history and his average of 1.6 blocks per game ranks third in the Big Ten. Shurna is also eighth all-time at Northwestern with 286 career assists and he ranks 14th in the Big Ten with an average of 5.2 rebounds per game and leads the team with 1.2 steals per contest this season.

    Northwestern is well known for playing "team" offense and that's reflected in the statistics. The Wildcats rank fourth in the nation with a 1.51 assist-to-turnover ratio this season. NU ranked second nationally to only Wisconsin with a 1.70 mark a year ago. NU ranks fourth in the country with an average of just 10.1 turnovers per contest. Northwestern is assisting on 63.9 percent of its made field goals, the seventh-highest percentage nationally.

    UP NEXT...
    The winner of Tuesday's contest advances to take on the winner of the game between top-seeded Washington and Texas-Arlington, the No. 8 seed. Game date, time and location are to be determined.


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