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February 25, 2012

The Great Escape

Northwestern hit 15 three-pointers but still needed a questionable foul call and two John Shurna free throws with 2.6 seconds left to escape with a 67-66 win at Penn State and keep its NCAA Tournament dreams alive.

The Wildcats hit 15-of-29 (51.7 percent) of their shots from beyond the arc against the Nittany Lions and needed every one of them. That's because Northwestern was outrebounded 37-18 (13-4 on the offensive end) and inexplicably made only 7-of-21 (33.3 percent) of its two-point field goals in the contest.

With 2.6 seconds left and Penn State clinging to a 66-65 lead, Shurna, who led the Wildcats with 23 points, got the ball on the right block and was fouled in the act of shooting by Penn State's Jonathan Graham. On replay, the contact was difficult to see. Shurna went to the line and sank both free throws to give the Wildcats their final points.

Then, a desperation 30-footer by Tim Frazier, who scored a team-high 23 points for Penn State, fell several feet short at the buzzer to ice the victory.

The game was a see-saw affair that featured six ties and nine lead changes. It was a rare win in a tight contest for the Wildcats, who are now 2-6 in games decided by five points or less or in overtime.

Northwestern (17-11, 7-9 Big Ten) needed the win to stay on the bubble for the first invitation to the Big Dance in school history. A loss to Penn State (12-17, 4-12) would have been devastating to the Wildcats' chances and probably would have forced them to win the Big Ten Tournament to have a shot of getting in.

Six Wildcats wound up making at least one three-pointer for Northwestern: Drew Crawford hit 4-of-5, Alex Marcotullio 4-of-6, Shurna 3-of-9, Reggie Hearn 2-of-4, JerShon Cobb 1-of-2 and David Sobolewski 1-of-3.

Crawford finished with 13 points and Marcotullio 12. Shurna scored 16 of his points in the second half, including the Wildcats' last six.

Shurna also led NU with six assists and five blocked shots, while Crawford pulled down a team-high nine rebounds.



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