- Scott Powers, ESPN Staff Writer
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EVANSTON, Ill. – Here’s a quick look at Northwestern’s 70-61 win over Milwaukee in the opening round of the NIT on Wednesday.
How the game was won: Northwestern’s defense did the trick this time around. While the Wildcats connected on 10 3-pointers, they also missed 22 of them and shot under 40 percent from the field. What saved them was their defense. They forced Milwaukee in 16 turnovers and held them scoreless for more than nine minutes in the first half.
Turning point: Milwaukee took a 16-13 lead with an Anthony Hill free throw at 12:47. Unfortunately for the Panthers, it would be their last basket for nine minutes and 46 seconds. In between that time, Northwestern went on an 18-0 run and put the game away.
Stat of the game: Northwestern outrebounded Milwaukee 16-5 on the offensive glass. This was one game after Ohio State out-rebounded Northwestern 21-6 in the same category.
Player of the game: Northwestern’s John Shurna continues to look like the player he was before his ankle injury. He scored a game-high 25 points. It was his highest point total since scoring 28 points against St. John’s on Dec. 21.
ESPN SportsCenter highlight of the game: Every player is told to follow his shot, but not every player listen. Michael Thompson does. In the first half, he shot an outside jumper, followed his shot, caught a long rebound in the lane and in one motion put it back up and scored.
What the game means: Northwestern has advanced to the second round of the NIT for the first time in 17 years. The Wildcats’ last NIT victory came against DePaul in 1994. They had lost in the NIT’s opening round in their last three appearances. Northwestern will be looking to make history when it travels to No. 1-seeded Boston College next. The Wildcats have never been to the tournament’s quarterfinals.