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Archive - Feb 4, 2012 - Blog entry

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Big Ten Blog

Player of the Week

John Shurna, Northwestern

John ShurnaJohn ShurnaThe Big Ten’s leading scorer put up 28 points on 9-of-13 shooting to keep the Wildcats away from a fourth straight loss on Thursday night against Nebraska. We all know he can go off like this at any given time, but this was his first game scoring more than 22 points since Dec. 18 against Eastern Illinois and his third this season (the Wildcats are 3-0 in those games). He had scored more than 22 eight times at the same point in last season’s schedule. Since the start of last season, Northwestern is 11-2 when Shurna scores above that mark. He also scored 15 points Saturday in a 58-56 heartbreaker against Purdue.

But it was more about how Shurna scored those points that matters. He went 7-of-8 from the free-throw line. Northwestern is 5-0 this season when Shurna makes at least five free throws, a sign of him not totally relying on his 3-point shot (which ranks seventh in the Big Ten at 42.7 percent). He’s attempted the fourth-most 3-pointers (131) in the conference, behind Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr., Purdue’s Ryne Smith and Illinois’ D.J. Richardson — with good reason. But when he starts getting to the basket like he did Thursday against Nebraska, good things happen. He had several nice drives that helped put the Huskers away, and maneuvered his way down low for an offensive rebound and tip-in late in the game.

Coach Bill Carmody knows Northwestern (13-8, 3-6 Big Ten, 10th place) can’t afford to sit Shurna, who has played an average 39.3 minutes per game in Big Ten games, and is on the floor for 96.9 percent of the time, both tops in the conference. Shurna stays out of foul trouble and doesn’t turn the ball over — hard to do when you’re the go-to guy. In the past five games, he’s only turned the ball over four times, while dishing out 12 assists.