EVANSTON — For a player who’s been nursing a high-ankle sprain for almost a month, Northwestern junior John Shurna put on a shooting clinic in the Wildcats’ 74-60 rout of the Michigan men’s basketball team last night.
First, Shurna hit a shot over freshman Evan Smotrycz, then over junior Zack Novak and then over redshirt freshman Jordan Morgan.
In fact, it’d be hard to find a Wolverine on the roster who didn’t get a front-row seat at the John Shurna shooting show — the 6-foot-8 forward had 22 of the Wildcats’ 44 first half points in just 16 minutes of play.
“Find him (on defense), is the first thing (we needed to do) and we just didn’t do that,” junior Stu Douglass said after the game. “I think we might have been thinking too much about switches and getting overworked a little bit mentally more than anything. And we were just in a scramble a little bit, too much.”
With Shurna’s hot hand (he finished with 24 points), Michigan (1-5 Big Ten, 11-8 overall) struggled to find an offensive rhythm early in the game. Sophomore guard Darius Morris spent more time on the bench than on the floor in the first half due to foul trouble, which meant Douglass ran the point for the Wolverines.
But with the team’s floor general out, Michigan’s offensive game flattened — finding just eight assists the entire game. The Wildcats passed the ball with a military-like precision, picking up 18 assists and turning the ball over just five times.
The Wolverines’ first-half struggles carried over to after the break, with Northwestern (3-4, 12-5) stretching its 13-point halftime lead into a 20-point cushion before Michigan cut the final margin to 14 points.
The Wolverines tried to rally late in the second half, moving into an aggressive man-to-man defense. But it was to no avail, as the Wolverines had dug themselves in too deep a hole with their poor shooting.
Douglass led Michigan with 17 points and was the only Wolverine to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor. Morris, who played more in the second half, racked up 16 points and was the only other Wolverine to score in double digits.
“That’s just tough to overcome especially against a team like that, that’s as good offensively as they are — you know they’re gonna score,” Novak said after the game. “You do your best and try to stop them. We had a good game plan, tried to execute it as well as we could but we were gonna have to make shots and we didn’t. We didn’t make enough.”
The loss is Michigan’s fifth straight, but the team is sticking to its positive thinking and focusing on its next game against No. 15 Minnesota at Crisler Arena on Saturday.
“We just have to keep getting better — that’s all you can say,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “You don’t worry about that stuff you just say, ‘Hey, it’s another day, another practice. Forget about it. I don’t care if we lost 10 in a row, forget about it. It’s the next day, it’s the next game, that’s what’s important.’ ”