NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS

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    March 2, 1998

    Wildats Set for Big Ten Tourney

    NWU Plays Minnesota in First Round

    Northwestern (10-16; 3-13 Big Ten)
    at Big Ten Tournament
    Thur.-Sun., March 5-8, 1998
    United Center * Chicago, Ill.

    First round Opponent:
    Minnesota (13-14; 6-10 Big Ten)
    Thur., March 5, 1998 * 1 p.m.

    Radio: WGN Radio
    TV: ESPN2

    NU's Possible Starting Lineup
    No.                                 ppg     rpg
    5   Joe Harmsen (F, 6-9, Jr.)       4.0     3.2
    13  Joe Branch (F, 6-3, Sr.)        2.46    3.2
    42  Evan Eschmeyer (C, 6-11, Sr.)   21.6    10.8
    4   Julian Bonner (G, 6-1, Jr.)     9.0     2.8
    22  Sean Wink (G, 6-2, Fr.)         12.5    2.5
    Off The Bench
    No.                                 ppg     rpg
    23  Napoleon Harris (F, 6-4, Fr.)   4.5     4.9
    35  Aron Molnar (F, 6-11, So.)      4.5     2.7
    31  Nate Pomeday (G, 6-2, Jr.)      3.7     1.2

    Scouting Northwestern: The Wildcats finished the regular season with a 10-16 overall record and a 3-13 mark in the Big Ten Conference. The 'Cats are the ninth seed in the inaugural Big Ten Tournament and will take on eighth-seeded Minnesota on Thursday at 1 p.m. The winner of this game will take on top-seeded Michigan State on Friday at 3 p.m.

    The 'Cats are coming off a 59-54 loss at Minnesota on Saturday. NU opened the game with a 13-7 spurt. Eric Harris then took over, scoring 10 of his 12 first-half points during a 24-4 run that gave Minnesota a 31-17 halftime lead. NU battled back from a 15-point second-half deficit to pull with three points, 55-52, with 18 seconds left. Harris sealed the win with free throws down the stretch. All-America candidate Evan Eschmeyer tallied his 18th double-double of the year with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Harris had 20 points for the Golden Gophers.

    Eschmeyer is second in the Big Ten Conference in overall scoring (21.6 ppg), first in rebounding (10.8 rpg) and is third in field goal percentage (.608). Wink, who leads the Big Ten in three-pointers made per game (85, 3.27), is second on the NU team in scoring (12.5 ppg), while junior Julian Bonner is third in points per game (9.0 ppg) and first in assists (4.1 apg).

    Scouting Minnesota: The Golden Gophers, seeded No. 8, finished the regular season with a 13-14 overall record and a 6-10 mark in Big Ten action. Minnesota wrapped up its regular-season with a 59-54 win over Northwestern on Saturday. Eric Harris led the Gopher effort with 20 points. Sam Jacobson leads the team in scoring with an 18.2 ppg average. Eric Harris (13.3 ppg), Quincy Lewis (13.0 ppg) and Kevin Clark (10.9 ppg) all average in double figures for the Gophers.

    NU/Minnesota, The Series: Today's game marks the 136th meeting between Northwestern and Minnesota, with the Gophers holding a 86-49 series lead. The teams split two contests this season. The 'Cats won the first matchup, 66-59, in Evanston on Jan. 7, while Minnesota won the second game, 59-54, in Minneapolis on Feb. 28. Evan Eschmeyer averaged 27.5 points and 12.0 rebounds against Minnesota this season, including a game-high 31 points and 12 rebounds in the Wildcat win.

    Minnesota Series Notes
    Series Record: Minnesota leads, 86-49
    First Meeting: 1909, Minnesota won, 21-16
    Current Series Streak: Minnesota, one game

    Head Coach Kevin O'Neill: Kevin O'Neill is in his first season as head coach of the Wildcat basketball program.

    Tabbed as one of the nation's top recruiters, O'Neill came to NU from Tennessee where he was at the helm of the Volunteer program for three seasons. He inherited a program which won only five games the previous campaign, and took them to the NIT two seasons later. Prior to his stint in Knoxville, O'Neill was the head coach at Marquette for five years. The two-time Great Midwest Conference Coach of the Year, O'Neill guided the Golden Eagles to an NIT appearance and two NCAA Tournament berths. He left Milwaukee with an impressive mark of four winning campaigns in five years and a Great Midwest Conference championship in 1994. In addition, his last two teams compiled a remarkable 44-17 record, while leading the nation in field goal percentage defense.

    Overall, O'Neill has a 150-136 record in 10 seasons.

    Making Strides: In Kevin O'Neill's first season as head coach of the NU program, the Wildcats have made significant strides.

    * The 'Cats victories in Big Ten play are the most since the 1993-94 season and, for the first time in 15 years, NU won 10 games at home.

    * In 14 of NU's setbacks, four have come down to the last possession of the game.

    * In addition, the 'Cats have set or tied various records this season: NU's six turnovers against Sam Houston State set the Welsh-Ryan Arena record for fewest turnovers in a game ... Set a Welsh-Ryan Arena and school record for field goal percentage, .702 (33-for-37) vs. Troy State ... Set a Welsh-Ryan Arena and school record for assists, 30 vs. Troy State ... The 'Cats held Chicago State and Wisconsin to 13-first half points which tied a Welsh-Ryan Arena record for fewest points in a half.

    NU has tied or outrebounded 21 of its 26 opponents, including 12 of 16 Big Ten opponents.

    As of Feb. 26, Evan Eschmeyer was one of only two Division I players to be ranked in the top 20 nationally in scoring (16th, tied), rebounding (7th, tie) and field goal percentage (12th). The other is Michael Olowokandi of Pacific.

    Evan Eschmeyer was named as one of 25 finalists for the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) Player of the Year Award.

    All-America candidate Evan Eschmeyer is one of only seven NU players to have scored more than 1,000 points (1,214) and grabbed more than 600 rebounds (693).

    A Consistent Threat: Evan Eschmeyer has recorded 40-consecutive double-figure scoring games dating back to last season.

    20/20 Vision: Esch scored 20 or more points in 14 games this season and scored a career-high 37 points against Penn State on Feb. 8. In addition, he scored 36 points at Dayton, 31 vs. Minnesota, 30 vs. DePaul and Michigan State, 26 points at Boston College and vs. Wisconsin, 24 points at Penn State and Minnesota and vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore and Wofford, 23 points vs. Siena and 20 vs. Chicago State and Sam Houston State. He now has 20 20-point or more outings in his career.

    Eschmeyer also has shot over 60 percent in 13 contests this season.

    As of Feb. 24, Evan Eschmeyer had the fourth-most double-doubles in the country (18) and the fifth-most 30+ point games in the nation (5)

    Seeing Double: With his 24-point, 12-rebound performance at Minnesota, Esch has recorded a double-double in 18 games this season.

    Esch has recorded a double-double in 11 of 16 Big Ten tilts.

    Here's Something to Remember: Evan Eschmeyer is a fifth-year senior and may petition the NCAA for a sixth year. Esch had a recurring injury in his right foot which prohibited him from playing during his first two seasons at NU. The NCAA will review this petition upon the conclusion of this season.

    The Eschmeyer Report: Evan Eschmeyer has made his way onto various lists in the NU record books. Esch ranks 10th in career scoring (1,214), sixth in career rebounds (693), first in career field goal percentage (.598), third in career free throw attempts (571), fifth in career free throws made (348) and third in career blocked shots (83). If that's not enough, he also is second in single-season points (562), fourth in single-season rebounds (280), first in single-season free throws made (178) and attempted (287).

    A 1,000-Point Scorer: Evan Eschmeyer became the 22nd player in Northwestern history to score 1,000 points. Eschmeyer now has 1,214 points in his NU career, good for 10th place in the history books. He ties Cedric Neloms and Kevin Rankin for the fifth-fastest 1,000-point performance in school history. Only four other NU players have reached 1,000 points faster (Billy McKinney, Joe Rucklick, Dale Kelley, Jim Burns).

    Evan Eschmeyer and Sean Wink have combined for 56 percent of the Wildcat offense.

    Sean Wink has converted four or more three-point attempts in 10 games this season.

    The Record Breaker: Freshman Sean Wink shattered the NU three-point field goals made record (85 threes). Entering the Ohio State game, Wink needed just three threes to break the record. He responded with six threes in just eight attempts (75 percent). Wink now ranks fifth in career threes made, second in career three-point field goal percentage (.472) and third in single-season three attempts (180).

    Leader of Pack: Sean Wink leads the Big Ten in three-pointers made (85) and attempted (180) and is second in three-point field goal percentage (.472). He has scored in double-figures in 17 contests and is averaging 12.5 ppg, second-best on the team. His six-of-eight shooting performance against Ohio State was his best outing from beyond the arc this season.

    Of Wink's 108 field goals this season, 85 have been three-pointers (79 percent). His 85 threes are tops in the Big Ten.

    As of Feb. 24, Wink was tied for sixth nationally in threes made per game and was 19th in three-point field goal percentage.

    A Linebacker on the Basketball Court: Freshman walk-on Napoleon Harris, who is a scholarship football player, has become a vital member of the NU basketball team. Overall, he has played in 17 games and is averaging 4.5 points, 4.9 rebounds in 14.5 minutes. He has led the 'Cats in rebounding in three games this season (at Penn State, eight; at Purdue, nine; and at Indiana, 11). He tallied career highs in points (18) against Ohio State and rebounds (13) at Indiana.

    The Iron Men: Julian Bonner, director of the NU offense, is averaging a team-high 38.8 minutes per game (39.4 Big Ten). Bonner has played 39 or more minutes in 16 games this season. Evan Eschmeyer and Sean Wink are right behind him with averages of 37.5 and 33.5 mpg, respectively, and 38.4 and 34.8 mpg in Big Ten play. Esch has played more than 39 minutes in 12 games.

    An Outside Compliment: Julian Bonner, who averages 9.0 ppg, has been a steady contributor to the NU offense. He has scored in double-figures in 11 contests in 1997-98. The following are his point totals from those games:

    23 points vs. Siena (career-high) 
    16 points at Iowa, Sam Houston State
    14 points vs. Seton Hall
    13 points vs. Illinois, Minnesota
    11 points vs. Troy State, Indiana, at Michigan, at Illinois
    10 points at Boston College

    Bonner also leads the team in assists (4.1 apg) and posted a career-high nine assists against Michigan State, Chicago State and DePaul.

    'Cats in the Conference Rankings: The Wildcats finished among the top five teams in the conference in the following categories (all game stats):

    Team: 1st, rebounding defense (27.2); 4th, rebounding margin (+6.3); 4th, three-point field goal percentage (.389); 4th, scoring defense (63.8); 4th, defensive rebounds (23.77); and 4th three-point field goal percentage (.423).

    Evan Eschmeyer: 2nd, scoring (21.8 ppg); 1st, rebounds (10.8 rpg); 1st, offensive rebounds (3.62); 1st, defensive rebounds (7.15); and 3rd, field goal percentage (.608).

    Sean Wink: 1st, three-point field goals made per game (3.27) and 2nd, three-point field goal percentage (.472).

    'Cats In the National Ranks: As of February 24, the Wildcats ranked in the national statistics in the following categories: Team: 13th, rebounding margin.

    Evan Eschmeyer: 7th (t), rebounding; 12th, field goal percentage and 16th (t), scoring.

    Sean Wink: 6th (t), threes made; and 19th, three-point field goal percentage.

    Allouche Joins Wildcats Squad from Missouri: Danny Allouche (6-5, 193), a transfer from Missouri, will play on the Wildcat squad next season. A junior from Omer, Israel, Allouche averaged 2.7 points, 1.4 rebounds and 8.3 minutes as a sophomore at Missouri. In two seasons, he played in 52 games and started in four contests, while averaging 3.5 ppg. Prior to coming to Missouri, Allouche competed for the Haifa Haepel team, while serving three years in the Israeli Army.

    NU on WGN: WGN 720-AM is the radio voice of Wildcat basketball. The 50,000-watt, clear-channel station is heard in 38 states and in Canada. Handling the broadcasts for WGN this season is Dave Eanet, sports director at WGN and play-by-play announcer for the Wildcat football team. Joey Meyer, former head basketball coach at DePaul, handles game analysis.

    Postgame Interviews: Northwestern head coach Kevin O'Neill and players will be made available to the media after today's game. Following a cooling-off period, the winning coach and players, followed by the losing coach and players will appear in the interview room. Locker rooms will be open to the media per NCAA Championship policy.

    Elite 'Cats: Six of Northwestern's 12 sports, which are currently competing, are ranked in the top 25 nationally: women's fencing (13th); women's swimming (14th); men's golf (19th); men's tennis (21st); women's tennis (22nd); and wrestling (24th).