CHICAGO - Mark Twain once stated that, "reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." The same holds true for the Northwestern men's basketball team. Given up for dead by many following season-ending injuries to seniors Kevin Coble and Jeff Ryan, the Wildcats showed Friday night that it isn't time to throw dirt on them just yet. Behind a career-high 25 points by sophomore forward John Shurna, NU took down No. 23 Notre Dame 72-58 at the UIC Pavilion as part of the Chicago Invitational Challenge.With the win, Northwestern (4-1) advances to take on Iowa State--a 65-54 winner Friday over Saint Louis--at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Shurna hit on 9-of-18 field goal attempts in the contest, including a trio of 3-pointers. It was his 30-footer that beat the first-half buzzer and gave the Wildcats a 30-27 lead heading into the intermission.NU built on that momentum early in the second half as they held the Fighting Irish without a field goal for a span of seven minutes and 20 seconds as the 'Cats went on a 15-2 run to take their largest lead of the game at 50-38 on a layup by Shurna with 12 minutes to go.
However, Notre Dame (5-1) would rally right back with a 13-2 run of its own to get within 52-51 with seven minutes still remaining.But freshman Alex Marcotullio had an answer, banging a 3-pointer and then hitting a pair of free throws as part of a six-point run by NU that extended the lead back up to seven.
A triple by Tim Abromaitis and a layup by Luke Harangody got the Irish back within two with 2:19 left, but it was all Northwestern the rest of the way. As he did in last Sunday's win over Tennessee State, Marcotullio hit a clutch 3-pointer late, this time extending the Wildcats' lead to five.NU got consecutive defensive stands and Shurna hit on a basket in the paint with 1:02 left and Thompson connected on two attempts from the free throw line to extend the lead to nine and seal the victory for the Wildcats. All told, Northwestern finished the game on a 14-2 run once Notre Dame had gotten within two points.
The 'Cats executed on both ends of the court to perfect as the only committed five turnovers while holding Notre Dame to 31.7 percent shooting from the field (20-63). Harangody, a preseason All-American and National Player of the Year candidate, finished with a team-high 21 points, but was held to 7-of-19 shooting, including 0-of-6 from 3-point range.Thompson joined Shurna in the 20-point club with 20 and didn't commit a turnover while playing all 40 minutes. Marcotullio came up huge off the bench once again, scoring a career-high 13 points including a pair of clutch 3-pointers late. The contest marked the first meeting between Northwestern and Notre Dame in 25 years.
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