John Shurna enters Saturday’s game against Minnesota needing just 17 points to break Northwestern’s all-time scoring record. However, he has something of greater significance on his mind.
“To be honest, I think the only record that matters at this point is wins and losses,” he said.
Coming from a player that has put his teammates before himself for four years, that isn’t a surprise.
“I know how Johnny feels about it, he just wants to win,” teammate Drew Crawford said. “It just shows what kind of teammate he is. He’s a great guy, a great teammate and he honestly couldn’t care less about beating the record. He just wants to win and achieve our goals for the season. That just shows what a great teammate he is and a great person.”
Shurna knows that he’ll be playing for a lot more than a scoring record on Saturday. He’ll be playing for a spot in the NCAA Tournament — the first ever for his school — in what has essentially become a must-win game.
“I think every game has had the feel of a must-win game for a while now,” he said. “I think we just go out there with the mentality that you have to leave it all out there on the floor.
“You could say every game is a must game from here on out, especially going against a team we’re tied with in the conference (like Minnesota).”
Shurna said he isn’t worried about individual goals and that team goals and individual goals often go hand-in-hand. However, reaching the 17-point mark might be crucial to an NU win, as the Wildcats have depended on Shurna’s scoring all season. He comes into Saturday averaging 20.3 points per game, and 25.6 points per game in February.
“I think it’ll be more important how the end of the season turns out,” he said. “If your team is doing well then you’re helping your team win. I’m trying to leave it all out on the floor and help the team win. If in some cases that means scoring more, that’s what I’ll do.”
Despite his adamant focus on the game, not the record, Shurna admitted that he was aware of the hype surrounding the event. Coach Bill Carmody said his senior forward has done a good job handling the situation.
“Generally speaking, I’d say he doesn’t like being the center of attention,” Carmody said. “He sort of deflects it a little bit. That’s why he’s such a likable guy. I don’t think it will affect him once the game starts.”
What will put pressure on Shurna, Carmody said, is Minnesota’s strong defense, which bottled him up in Minneapolis — although he did finish with 21 points — in the Cats’ 75-52 loss to the Gophers in January.
“Minnesota did a good job on him last time so I’m sure that’s in his head more than the scoring record,” he said.
Shurna said that the impact of this game on the bigger picture, most significantly NU’s NCAA Tournament hopes, is certainly out there. However, he and his team are only focused on their next obstacle, scoring record or not.
“Our goal," said Shurna, "Is to beat Minnesota and just take it one day at a time."