In front of a packed house, John Shurna made Northwestern history, becoming the program’s all-time leading scorer. He passed Billy McKinney’s career mark of 1,900 points set in 1977.
Shurna, known for his kind, humble demeanor, was more satisfied with other feats from Saturday’s game.
“The key is that we defended out home court against a good Minnesota team,” Shurna told the media.
Northwestern topped Minnesota, 64-53, in what was largely considered a must-win game for both team’s NCAA tournament hopes.
Shurna was a key part of the Wildcats’ success, posting 18 points—now 1,902 for his career—in a game that will be remembered for his remarkable accomplishment.
“He’s a quiet, humble kind of guy and cares about his teammates,” NU head coach Bill Carmody said of Shurna. “I’m just really happy for him.”
Minnesota held Shurna scoreless for the opening 16 minutes of the game. Then, Shurna stole the basketball from Gophers’ point guard Andre Hollins rocked the rim with a fastbreak slam dunk.
The senior forward posted 12 points in the final 3:40 of the first half. The scoring record was a mere four points away.
Shurna passed McKinney’s 35-year-old lead at the 10:454 mark of second half. He dribbled to the top of the key and connected on a long-range three-pointer.
“I thought I was open so I shot it,” Shurna said. “I was just trying to help the team out and help the team win.”
Immediately after Shurna’s record-breaking shot went through the rim, the Welsh-Ryan crowd went into a celebration. A Minnesota turnover came seconds later, allowing a timeout on the floor. The Northwestern fans rose to their feet, giving the program’s new leading scorer a rousing standing ovation.
Shurna was happy to have his achievement come in Evanston, in front of the Wildcat fans.
“It was good to get the record at home,” said Shurna. “I think that made it more special because we’ve had such great support all four years that I’ve been here.”
After the clock hit zeros, Shurna walked around with a smile on his face, signifying the feeling of relief; not for his personal record, but for giving a boost to Northwestern’s win-loss record.
“He said the important thing is that we got a win,” Carmody said of Shurna. “That’s the kind of kid he is.”
It may have been Shurna’s night, but freshman point guard David Sobolewski did his best to steal the show. He finished with a game-high 22 points. Drew Crawford also posted double-figure scoring, adding 11 points.
Minnesota was plagued by turnovers—21, to be exact. That negated its 41 rebounds, 21 better than the Wildcats.
“I certainly thought Northwestern outplayed us,” Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith said. “I want to commend them on the job they did.”
The Wildcats advance to 16-10 on the season, and stand at 6-8 in Big Ten play. NU likely needs at least eight conference wins to boost its NCAA tournament credentials.
Carmody refused to acknowledge Saturday’s game as being a “must-win” game for his Wildcats, but said: “It was close to a must-win. We got it. That’s the important thing.”
• Northwestern edged Minnesota in the field goal percentage category, finishing with 45.7 from the field. The Wildcats also connected on 10-27 three-pointers.
• Sophomore guard Jershon Cobb started at shooting guard for Northwestern, posting just two points on the game.
• Prior to the game, Billy McKinney spoke on the phone with John Shurna and wished him luck in reach the scoring record. McKinney was unable to make the contest due to business travel, but was receiving updates from NU commit Sanjay Lumpkin’s mother, a friend of McKinney’s.
• Four of Northwestern’s commits were in attendance for the game. Sanjay Lumpkin, Alex Olah, Kale Abrahamson, and Milos Kostic were all in attendance.