Wildcats defeat Illinois 71-70

By Etheria Modacure

The Northwestern University Wildcats didn’t need much effort from its leading scorer, John Shurna defeating the University of Illinois Fighting Illini 71-70 on Feb. 5 in Evanston. The Wildcats (14-8, 4-7) were led by senior guard Micheal “Juice” Thompson who scored a game-high of 22 points against Illinois (15-8, 5-5).

Shurna, who sat out during the Wildcats previous game against Ohio State University on Jan. 29 after suffering from a concussion, didn’t start for Northwestern on Feb. 5. Northwestern was able to limit the Illini’s two forwards, seniors Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis, to scoring a combined 12 points on 5-of-15 shooting from the field.

This was the Wildcats first victory over a ranked opponent this season and it couldn’t have come at a better time because Northwestern is beginning a two-game road trip against the University of Michigan and Penn State University.

“We’ve lost some tough games in the conference,” said Northwestern Head Coach Bill Carmody. “It was just nice for us that we were able to get a signature victory.”

After losing to Purdue University, Michigan State University, Illinois in Champaign and Ohio State, the Wildcats were able to get a much-needed conference victory.

The last time these two universities met, Illinois blew out the Wildcats in Champaign on Jan. 6, 88-63.

The Wildcats shot from behind the arc, finishing the game with 42 percent. They also made three-point opportunities and had many contributions from sophomore guard Drew Crawford, 12 points, and freshmen guard JerShon Cobb who scored 13.

Shurna only played 12 minutes for the Wildcats with five points. Carmody said he didn’t want him to sit too long because he needed him to be fresh for the team’s upcoming road series.

Northwestern jumped out to an early 9-0 lead in the first half with two three-pointers by Drew Crawford, who scored all of his 12 points in the first period.

After leading by as much as 11 in the first half, the Illini were able to trim their deficit with better shot selections, unlike the Wildcats who controlled their offensive possessions.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Wildcats forced Illinois to commit eight first-half turnovers and 12 overall.

Thompson was aggressive in the game for the Wildcats and was able to get to the basket with layups and knocked down five three-pointers in the contest.

After trailing the Wildcats 53-41 in the early stages of the second half, Illinois went on a 12-0 run to tie the game. Thompson hit a three-pointer to give Northwestern a small cushion and the game never turned around.

“As a team, I think we did a good job of keeping our composure,” Thompson said. “I was just on the receiving end of some good passes and I made some shots.”

Illinois never led the game but was able to make the game close. The Illini trailed 68-67 with :10 remaining and fouled Shurna. He hit both free throws and on the next possession, the Wildcats intentionally fouled senior guard Demetri McCamey, but he missed his free throw on a 1-and-1 attempt.

When asked if this victory was revenge for the last meeting Northwestern had with Illinois on Jan. 6, Crawford didn’t say it was but contributed the team’s efforts to not let history repeat itself.

“Revenge wasn’t a factor,” Crawford said. “It was an embarrassing loss when we were down in Champaign. We came out flat. It was just a real bad loss for us, but that’s something we’ve moved on from. It felt good to comeback today and execute what we wanted to do as a team.”