Sophomore center Luka Mirkovic aided Northwestern's cause with a double-double of his own, tallying 11 points and pulling down 11 rebounds.NU improves to 11-3 on the year with a win in its second-to-last nonconference game of the 2009-10 regular season. In the end, the 'Cats prevailed in what turned out to be a defensive affair, with Texas-Pan American shooting just 28 percent from the field on the night. NU, which came into the game leading the country in assist-to-turnover ratio, committed an uncharacteristically high 19 turnovers while dishing out 11 assists.
Northwestern got off to a slow start against the UTPA defense, trailing 7-2 in the early going until Shurna banked in a jump hook at the 13:10 mark to pull NU within three. After a stop on defense, Northwestern found Shurna alone in the corner on offense and the NU sophomore was true on his 3-point attempt, tying the game at seven.Four minutes later, Shurna connected on back-to-back triples to give the 'Cats the lead for the first time at 13-11 and force a Broncs timeout. Shurna would eventually finish the first half having made four of his five attempts from beyond the arc.
Texas Pan-American relied on steady long range shooting to keep pace with NU, as Ben Smith drilled a trey to break a 19-19 tie at the 4:04 mark. A hanging jump shot by Shurna with 2:03 to play proved to be NU's last bucket of the opening half as the Broncs took a 23-21 lead into the locker room.Northwestern continued to search for its offensive groove in the second half, kicking things up a notch at the 13-minute mark of the second half trailing 33-29. Point guard Michael Thompson found a slashing Jeremy Nash in the lane from the left wing. Nash was fouled in the process of converting his layup but missed the ensuing free throw, leaving NU down by two at 33-31.
The Wildcats seized their first lead since the 6:11 mark of the first half, 35-34, with 11 minutes to play on the strength of four straight free throws, two each by Thompson and Mirkovic. NU managed to build a five-point cushion before UTPA climbed to within two, 42-40, with under five minutes to play.Shurna once again answered the call for the 'Cats, burying a 3-pointer from the left wing with 3:30 to play. After a stop on defense, NU received an old-fashioned three-point play underneath from Mirkovic to take its largest lead of the evening, 48-40, with 2:47 showing on the clock.
An and-1 for the Broncs with 33 seconds remaining brought the vistors to within five, but Thompson and Nash were true in NU's final two trips to the free throw line to ice the win.Northwestern resumes Big Ten competition Sunday when it travels to Michigan. Game time is set for 1:30 p.m. CT with the Big Ten Network carrying the broadcast live from Ann Arbor.