Dec. 23, 2008
EVANSTON, Ill. - Craig Moore and Michael Thompson scored 14 points apiece as Northwestern used a strong start to the second half to pull away from SMU 66-55 Tuesday evening at Welsh-Ryan Arena in the Wildcats' final tune-up prior to the start of Big Ten play next week.
The victory improves NU to 8-2 on the season, the team's best 10-game start since opening the 2001-02 season with a similar mark. SMU falls to 3-6.
With the teams tied early, Northwestern used a 10-point run to surge ahead 17-7. However, SMU answered back with seven in a row to pull back within three.
To compound things, Moore and Kevin Coble each picked up their second personal foul by the time there was still 12 minutes remaining in the first half. The Wildcats' two leading scorers were forced to the bench for the remainder of the opening period.
NU's pressure defense which entered the game forcing 15.4 turnovers per contest, surpassed that in the first half alone as the Mustangs committed 16 miscues which the Wildcats turned into 16 points. However, SMU was able to hang in the game thanks in part to Northwestern having 10 turnovers of its own.
The 'Cats eventually took a 28-22 lead into the intermission.
With its full complement of starters back at its disposal, Northwestern quickly scored the first five points of the second half on a basket by Kyle Rowley and a 3-pointer by Michael Thompson to push the lead to 11.
All told, a 19-9 run to start the second stanza stretched NU's lead to 16 at 47-31. The Wildcats knocked down nine of their first 12 field goal attempts, capped by a thunderous backdoor slam by John Shurna as the lead grew to as many as 20.
Northwestern led comfortably the rest of the way, though the Mustangs would creep back within nine with two minutes remaining. However, the Wildcats' lead was never seriously threatened.
Bamba Fall led SMU with 14 points and five blocked shots. The Mustangs committed 23 turnovers in the contest.
The 'Cats return to action next Wednesday when they travel to Penn State to open the Big Ten season. Tip-off is set for 11 a.m. Central time with ESPN2 televising the game live.
Northwestern improves to 2-1 all-time against SMU. It was the first meeting between the schools since Dec. 14, 1963 ... The Mustangs shot 43.5 percent from the field in the contest. Only one NU opponent (Brown) has shot over 45 percent against the Wildcats in a game this season ... SMU's 23 turnovers rank as a tie for the most by a Northwestern opponent this season, tying Central Arkansas' total Nov. 16 ... The Wildcats held their 14th straight opponent under 70 points dating back to last season, the second-best streak in the country (Pittsburgh, 17). Northwestern entered the game ranked second in the nation in scoring defense, allowing an average of 52.6 points per game ... Freshman Luka Mirkovic led NU with a career-high three blocked shots in the contest, surpassing the two he had at Stanford last Saturday.