Cats squeak by Akron

EVANSTON, Ill. -- John Shurna captured yet another Northwestern record - surpassing Kevin Rankin for his 135th blocked shot - and exceeded 2,000 career points in Northwestern's, 76-74, first-round NIT win against Akron Tuesday night in Welsh-Ryan Arena.
With his jumper at 6:24, Shurna became just the 27th player from the Big Ten to exceed the 2,000 career-point mark, compiling 2014 in his four years in Evanston.
The senior from Glen Ellyn, who registered his first double-double of the season with 23 points and 11 rebounds, also tied an NU program record making his 129th career appearance in a Wildcat uniform, matching former Wildcat Michael Thompson's mark set last season.
After Akron took a quick two-basket lead to start things off, it was JerShon Cobb got NU rolling with seven-straight points for the 'Cats. Shurna got into the mix early as well, knocking down two threes to extend Northwestern's lead to 10 near the 12-minute mark, keeping the `Cats a step ahead of the Zips.
But it was Drew Crawford who lit up the court late in the first half, connecting on 8-of-10 field goals, including two from distance, to log 16 of the `Cats final 20 points heading into halftime with Northwestern leading, 42-34.
Cobb finished the game with 19 points, adding three rebounds and two assists, while Crawford added 27 points, seven rebounds and two assists of his own. The Zips were paced on the night by 18 points from Quincy Diggs and 17 points from Zeke Marshall.
On defense, Northwestern forced six first-half turnovers and held Akron to just 25-percent shooting from behind the arc, well below its season average. Conversely, the Wildcats hit on 46-percent of their shots from 3-point range in the first, going 5-for-11.
Crawford picked up the second half right were he left off and knocked down another 3-pointer, but things went cold for the Wildcats, who remained scoreless for the next seven minutes. Akron used an early 9-0 run to sneak its way back into the game and eventually took a 51-49 lead with 12:54 left in the game, its first of the night.
The two squads battled back-and-forth through much of the second stanza, but a 3-pointer by Shurna put the 'Cats up 73-70 with 2:20 left in the heated contest. Akron then hit three freethrows to knot things up at 73 apiece with a 1:49 left, but Shurna struck again from distance with his fifth triple of the night, giving the Wildcats another three-point advantage with under a minute remaining.
After a Northwestern turnover, Akron was unable to convert on multiple chances to cut into the lead. Dave Sobolewski missed the front end of a 1-and-1 allowing the Zips to drive the length of the court, but again, Akron was unable to take advantage, missing a last-second 3-pointer, allowing the 'Cats to escape with a 76-74 victory.
Northwestern advances to the second round of the NIT for the second year in a row, awaiting its opponent, the winner of Washington and University of Texas-Arlington.