2nd-half problems doom Tigers

Northwestern gets 37 points from Shurna, rallies from 14 points down to top LSU. O'Bryant breaks though with 21 points and 8 boards.

CHARLESTON, S.C. — John Shurna wasn't looking to break personal records, just help Northwestern stay undefeated.

Shurna did both in the Wildcats' first game at the Charleston Classic.

The 6-foot-8 senior scored a career-high 37 points as the Wildcats (2-0) defeated LSU 88-82 Thursday. The victory puts Northwestern into a winner's-bracket matchup with Tulsa, a 65-49 winner over Western Kentucky. The Tulsa-Northwestern winner will advance to Sunday night's championship game.

"I was just trying to help my team win," Shurna said. "My team had a lot of confidence in me and put me position to score points."

Northwestern overcame a 14-point first-half deficit and built a 76-67 lead of its own with 5 minutes to go. But the Tigers (1-2) rallied to cut the deficit to 83-82 in the final minute before Dave Sobelewski's 3-pointer from the deep right corner with 27 seconds to go sealed it for the Wildcats.

"We're going to fight to the end," Shurna said. "We were down a little bit, and we fought back. I think that's a good sign for the start of the season."

A better one is Shurna's performance. He surpassed his previous high of 31 points, showing his overall consistency with four 3-pointers and a 13-of-14 showing at the foul line. He added 7 rebounds, 4 assists, a block and a steal.

"He's a good player," LSU coach Trent Johnson said. "What they run, they do a good job getting him the ball."

LSU freshman Johnny O'Bryant led the way with 21 points and 8 rebounds. The 6-9 O'Bryant had a midcourt steal for a breakaway basket, blocked Shurna's shot, then made two foul shots to cut Northwestern's lead to 81-79. When Ralston Turner hit a 3-pointer moments later, LSU had closed within a point.

That's when Sobelewski struck with his second 3-pointer of the game. O'Bryant was called for traveling on LSU's next possession, and Northwestern held on for the win.

Drew Crawford had 17 points, all in the second half, and Sobelewski added 10 points and 6 assists for the Wildcats.

LSU had four players in double figures: Andre Stringer had 15 points, Anthony Hickey 11 and Justin Hamilton 10 to go along with O'Bryant's production.

It appeared the Tigers had found themselves early on in this one.

Hickey had 11 points and three of LSU's six steals in the opening 20 minutes. O'Bryant did the work on the inside with 8 points and 6 rebounds. He also showed poise at the line, hitting 4-of-5 attempts.

John Shurna: Johnny O'Bryant, Justin Hamilton and the LSU defense couldn't contain the Northwestern forward

No one, though, could handle Shurna. He had three 3-pointers for 16 points and 6 rebounds in the first half. Shurna was the only Northwestern starter not struggling from the field. He was 4-of-9 while the other four combined to go 1-of-11 as LSU led 41-32 at the break.

Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said he wasn't so much concerned about LSU's halftime lead as his team's sluggish showing. The Wildcats were not playing with effort and that had to change.

"I didn't spend a lot of the halftime talk discussing basketball," Carmody said.

Whatever he said appeared to work as the Wildcats, behind 11 points from Shurna, opened the second half on a 24-12 run to move in front.

"We're happy that we got points, but we're even happier that a lot of guys got to play and make contributions," Carmody said.

 

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