Shurna dunks all over Blue Jays

By Etheria Modacure

John Shurna proved he may be one of the top offensive scorers in college basketball when he scored a game high 23 points in Northwestern University’s 65-52 victory against the Creighton University Bluejays.

Shurna and guard Michael “Juice” Thompson combined for 41 points on Nov. 28 to lead the Wildcats to a tightly contested victory against a team some experts predict could be on the bubble before the NCAA tournament.

After beginning the game with a layup, Shurna added an emphatic dunk 30 seconds later. The Bluejays could not find a way to stop the 6-foot, 8-inch forward from Glen Ellyn, Ill.

The Bluejays played in their first road test of the season against a Big Ten opponent two nights after losing to Iowa State University from the Big 12. Creighton University, located in Omaha, Neb., posed a threat to knock off the Wildcats at home with their 6-foot, 9-inch center, Kenny Lawson Jr., having a strong first half.

Lawson scored 11 points in the first half, making counterpart Luka Mirkovic appear inefficient at times on defense and rebounding. While Mirkovic had only two points and one rebound in the first half, Lawson crashed the boards for six rebounds—four of them offensive—which helped lead the Bluejays to shooting 46.2 percent from the field in the first half.

In the second half, Mirkovic’s defense amplified as he held Lawson scoreless throughout the period.

“Luke [Mirkovic] played really good defense in the second half on [Kenny] Lawson,” said Wildcats Head Coach Bill Carmody.

The Bluejays were able to keep up with the Wildcats throughout most of the game but big scoring runs from the Wildcats ultimately led to the team’s demise.

The Bluejays shot more than 45 percent in the first half, but they mustered 28 percent in the second half to finish the night shooting at a combined 37.3 percent. Creighton entered the game shooting at least 43 percent for the season through five games.

Both forward Doug McDermott and guard Antoine Young couldn’t help spark a comeback for the Bluejays in the second half because of the Wildcats’ tough defense. McDermott finished with 14 points and Young had 18. Both players had six points each at the end of the first half.

“We played well enough offensively in the first half to win the game and we played well enough defensively in the second half, but we weren’t able to sustain it for 40 minutes,” said Creighton Head Coach Greg McDermott.

After allowing the Wildcats to shoot 56.7 percent in the first half, the Bluejays held them to 36.8 percent shooting and forced nine turnovers.

The solid plays of Shurna and Thompson helped Northwestern win the game. Shurna was able to beat double-teams by the Bluejays through screens and three-pointers. He also had three memorable dunks in the game, including an alley-oop.

“[I’ll have to] give credit to ‘Juice’ [Thompson] on all of those [dunks] because coach [Carmody] stressed pushing the ball up the floor, and we were able to score those two [dunks] in transition early in the first half,” Shurna said.

Thompson finished with 18 points and three assists for the game. He joked he was glad Shurna made the alley-oop in the second half so he could be credited with the assist. Thompson said the athleticism of Shurna helped make the play possible. This was part of a 10-0 run that put the Wildcats up 55-39.

For Creighton, this will be a loss the young team can build on before they begin Missouri Valley Conference play, but McDermott didn’t hesitate to praise a basketball team that gives its opponents problems on the court.

“I was really impressed with their level of execution [in the game],” McDermott said. “When you make a mistake, they’re going to make you pay for it.”