Last night's loss to Illinois showed a lot of things about Northwestern. The Wildcats struggled on offense and defense on the way to an 88-63 loss. Northwestern scored a season low 0.86 points per possession, which continued a Big Ten conference long downward spiral in that department.
John Shurna, since his injury against Mount St. Mary's, hasn't been the same player. His offensive rating has plummeted to 82.9 in the past three games. That's a below average offensive player. The low rating comes partly from Shurna's 7-26 (26.9 percent) shooting from the field. He's a touch shooter and his touch on his shots has been destroyed by the ankle injury. It's killing his offensive value.
Compound that with the fact that Shurna just isn't able to get out on three-point shooters or make athletic plays on defense and you've got some difficult situations for Bill Carmody to deal with. It's impossible to hide the fact that Shurna isn't 100 percent on defense and teams are taking advantage of it often. The Illini consistently attacked Shurna's area with the pick-and-roll and it made them look invincible at times.
Shurna's made a heroic go of it for these three Big Ten games, but if you saw the clips last night on ESPN2 and what he's had to do to even play you know it can't be easy. And thus, while there is no "right" time to do this, Shurna needs to take a seat for a little while, get healthy and help Northwestern make a late push. It's been said that it'd take about two to three weeks for the ankle to heal correctly. If Shurna was to sit down today here are the games he'd probably miss:
- vs. Indiana
- at Iowa
- at Michigan State
- vs. Michigan
- vs. SIU-Edwardsville
- vs. Wisconsin
Note: It's also possible that Shurna might also miss the Minnesota game on January 26, but you hope he'd be ready for that game.
So with Shurna playing at his current state an expected record might be 4-2. Without Shurna maybe that drops to 3-3 with the Michigan result flipping. Isn't one loss in mid-January worth surrendering in hopes of better things come February and March?
The big question of course would be the bench. But I truly believe that Mike Capocci, given the chance to play significant minutes, could make a big impact on this team. Yes, I know I'm in the minority there, but someone is going to have to step up. Or maybe Nick Fruendt, who scored 8 points on 2-3 shooting in garbage time last night, steps up. Someone will have to.
This obviously isn't an easy decision, but it's something Carmody and Shurna need to think about doing. It's been a gutty, inspiring effort from Northwestern's star, but it's time for him to heal so that the Wildcats have a chance to make a late push instead of slowly withering into obscurity.