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    Wildcats Face Michigan State in Big Ten Home Opener Saturday

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Michael Thompson has handed out six or more assists in four of the last five games.
    Michael Thompson has handed out six or more assists in four of the last five games.

    Jan. 2, 2009

    NU Game Notes vs. Michigan State (PDF)

    EVANSTON, Ill. - Northwestern tips off its 2008-09 Big Ten home season at 6 p.m. Saturday as it faces No. 10 Michigan State at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Big Ten Network is televising the game live with Brent Stover, Shon Morris and Ann Kreiter on the call.

    The contest can also be heard on 720 AM-WGN and online at with Dave Eanet and David Kaplan.

    Fans are encouraged to arrive early as a large crowd is expected. It is Bank of America day and the first 4,000 fans will receive a 2009 Northwestern Athletics calendar.

    The Wildcats (8-3, 0-1 Big Ten) saw an 11-point second-half lead slip away in dropping their conference opener 61-57 at Penn State on Wednesday. Freshman John Shurna paced NU with 16 points, while Kevin Coble and Craig Moore added 11 apiece. Northwestern dropped the contest despite limiting the Nittany Lions to 31.0 percent shooting from the field and holding advantages of 30-10 in points in the paint and 16-0 in fast break points.

    Series History: Michigan State leads, 76-36.
    Last Meeting: Craig Moore scored 21 points, but No. 11 Michigan State was able to pull away late to earn a 70-55 win over Northwestern in East Lansing Feb. 9, 2008.

    Scouting Michigan State
    • The Spartans (10-2, 1-0) bring a six-game winning streak into Saturday's game, most recently handing Minnesota its first loss of the season with a 70-58 victory in Minneapolis on Wednesday. Sophomore guard Kalin Lucas led Michigan State with 24 points, while Goran Suton contributed 11 points and 12 rebounds.

    • Junior forward Raymar Morgan leads MSU with an average of 14.8 points per game, while Lucas has a norm of 12.4 points per contest and is third in the Big Ten with an average of 6.1 assists per game. The Spartans lead the conference in scoring offense, averaging 78.8 points per game, and are also first with a +8.9 rebounding margin.

    • Tom Izzo is in his 14th season as the head coach at Michigan State and guided the Spartans to the 2000 national championship. He has a career record of 315-132.

    Wouldn't it Be Grand
    A total of 26 individuals have reached the 1,000-point plateau during their Northwestern careers. That number figures to grow Saturday as senior guard Craig Moore enters the contest against Michigan State with 999 career points. Moore is the third-leading active scorer in the Big Ten behind only Jamelle Cornley of Penn State and Raymar Morgan of Michigan State. Meanwhile, junior forward Kevin Coble also has an excellent shot at reaching the milestone this year as he has 879 points in two-plus seasons. Both Moore and Coble were honorable mention All-Big Ten selections last season.

    Northwestern in Big Ten Home Openers
    The Wildcats are 3-5 in Big Ten season openers under head coach Bill Carmody. Northwestern lost to Penn State 79-68 in their conference home opener last season.

    Not Far from Perfection
    NU comes into the game against Michigan State with just three losses this season to a trio of quality opponents. The 'Cats dropped a 57-53 decision at Butler Nov. 26 in a contest Northwestern led by 11 early in the second half. Butler is 10-1 this season and has a No. 2 rating according to The Wildcats fell 65-59 at Stanford Dec. 20. NU trailed by just one with under two minutes left to a Cardinal squad that is still undefeated at 10-0. Northwestern also held an 11-point second-half lead at Penn State Dec. 31 before falling 61-57 to a Nittany Lion squad that improved to 12-2.

    Seventy is Over the Limit
    Northwestern has not allowed its last 15 opponents to reach 70 points. It is the longest such streak in the country. The Wildcats currently leads the Big Ten in scoring defense in all of NCAA Division I entering play last week in the category, allowing an average of 52.6 points per game (currently 53.5).

    Up Next...
    The Wildcats hit the road next Wednesday as they travel to Wisconsin. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. with Big Ten Network televising the game live.