Northwestern Nets First Post-Season Win in 17 Years, Boston College Next in NIT

Alan Rubenstein@@uarubyAnalyst IIIMarch 17, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 11:  Jared Sullinger #0 of the Ohio State Buckeyes is fouled on a shot attempt by John Shurna #24 of the Northwestern Wildcats during the quarterfinals of the 2011 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 11, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Ohio State won 67-61 in overtime.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

After winning its first post-season win since 1994, Northwestern will next play at Boston College on Saturday at 10 a.m. CST in the NIT second round.

John Shurna scored 25 points and Michael Thompson had 20 in a 70-61 Northwestern victory over Milwaukee.

Northwestern 70 Milwaukee 61

In a game of runs, Northwestern’s 18-0 first half run was ultimately the difference.Northwestern held Milwaukee scoreless for over nine minutes in the first half, as they turned around a 16-13 deficit into a 32-16 lead.

Northwestern used its 1-3-1 zone to frustrate Milwaukee offensively. They were able to maintain the lead for the entire second half.

The Panthers had a late 9-0 run to cut the deficit from 15 to six. Thompson and Shurna then hit back-to-back three point shots to extend the lead back to 12 and the game wasn’t in doubt from there.  

Getting Shurna going has been important for Northwestern the last two games. The junior forward scored just 41points in the previous five games. He now has 48 in his last two. Asked about the importance of one of his stars, NU coach Bill Carmody was quoted on NUSports.Com about Shurna “We thought we would get some open looks tonight. Maybe it helped his confidence, but he has been playing better”

Boston College Saturday

Northwestern next travels to Boston College for brunch at Chestnut Hill. The Eagles and Wildcats will have an 1 1a.m. EDT (10 a.m. CDT) tip-off Saturday. 

BC advanced to the second round with an 82-64 victory over McNeese State. The Eagles raced out to a 41-19 advantage at halftime and never led by less than 12 in the second half. BC shot 53 percent from the floor, 47.8 percent on three-pointers and out-rebounded the Cowboys 40-26.

Scouting BC

BC's strength has been their balance and experience."It's a veteran team that can score," said Camody to  NUSports.Com "They're well-coached, they have seniors and guys that have played a lot, fifth-year guys."

The Eagles have eight seniors, three juniors and two freshmen on their roster. Four players average in double figures (three seniors and one junior).

Junior Guard Reggie Jackson leads the Eaglesaveraging 18.5 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 4.5 APG, while shooting 42.8 percent on threes. Guards Danny Rubin and Biko Paris also shoot well from beyond the arc.  Rubin connects on 43.4 percent and Paris makes 41.7 percent on threes.

As a team, BC connects on 38.2 percent of their three-point attempts, which ranks as 27th in the country. The Wildcats are just a shade behind BC making 37.5 percent on threes, 42nd in the country. NU is fourth nationally and BC fifth in three-point shots made per game.

BC is an excellent shooting team. NU’s field goal percentage defense has been a struggle all-season, though. The Wildcats allowed their opponents to shoot 46.8 percent from the floor this season. That ranked 314th out of 335 teams nationally. 

The Wildcats have also struggled on the boards with a negative 3.7 rebounding margin, as they match up well with BC on the boards. The Eagles’ opponents had 16 more rebounds than them this season. Forward Joe Trapani led BC in rebounding with seven per game this season.

Three-point field-goal percentage defense could be a key. BC ranks 208th and Northwestern 209th defensively against the trey. Opponents shoot 35 percent beyond the arc against both Northwestern and Boston College.

BC’s Balance

Jackson, Paris, Trapani and Corey Raji average in double figures for the Eagles. 

Jackson was selected as a first-team All-ACC performer and Trapani was third-team All-ACC.  Due to their balance, BC doesn’t have to rely on one player to carry the team every night.

Marcotulio Steps Up

After freshman starting guard Jershon Cobb went out with a hip injury six games ago, Sophomore guard Alex Marcotulio was inserted into the lineup.

He has stepped it up over the last four games averaging 12.5 PPG, made 10 of 13 from the free throw line and shot 37 percent on three-pointers.

Not Bad Little Brother

Eagle Senior Forward Corey Raji is the brother of Green Bay Packer defense tackle.Despite coming off the bench, Raji is the Eagles' third leading scorer and second leading rebounder. He has started ten games this season including more later in the season. 

Another Run for Coach Donahue?

Boston College Head Coach Steve Donahue is in his first season at Chestnut Hill. Donahue led Cornell to the Sweet 16 last season after upsetting Wisconsin and Temple. The Big Red won the Ivy League in his final three seasons to earn three NCAA Tournament berths.

Outlook for the NIT Sweet 16

The second round match-up between the top seeded Eagles and fourth seeded Wildcats should be an entertaining one. These are two of the top three-point shooting teams in the country, as they have each been through the battles of an BCS conference season.

After NCAA Tournament aspirations earlier this season, both BC and NU want to make a statement: that they belonged in the big dance by making a deep run in the NIT.

ESPN will televise the game Saturday. 


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