Jan. 2, 2011
Northwestern (9-2, 0-1 Big Ten) vs. #20 Michigan State (9-4, 1-0)
Monday, Jan. 3, 2011
Welsh-Ryan Arena (8,117)
Evanston, Ill. 6:30 p.m.
TV: Big Ten Network (Gus Johnson and Shon Morris)
Audio: WYLL 1160 AM and wgnradio.com (Dave Eanet and Tim Doyle)
Satellite Radio: Sirius 126 and XM 196
In-game Twitter updates: @NU_SportsLIVE
Northwestern Game Notes (PDF)
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern tips off its 2010-11 Big Ten home season Monday as it welcomes 20th-ranked Michigan State to Welsh-Ryan Arena. The contest gets underway at 6:30 p.m.
Doors open at 5 p.m. Due to the sellout crowd, fans should make plans to arrive early. Traffic will be very heavy, so all fans are encouraged to take public transportation, if possible.
Season ticket holders should be sure that their tickets include the bar code at the bottom.
The contest marks the third consecutive season that the Wildcats are opening their conference home slate against the Spartans.
NU is coming off an 82-69 loss at No. 12 Purdue on Friday in its first league game of 2010-11. Michael Thompson paced the Wildcats with 18 points while Luka Mirkovic tied a career high with 16 points. Northwestern trailed by only six with just under five minutes remaining but was unable to complete the upset.
Monday's contest continues a challenging start to the Big Ten season for the Wildcats. All of the team's first three conference games are against squads considered to be contenders for the league title, including Thursday's game at Illinois. A year ago, NU played its first 10 Big Ten contests against teams that appeared in the previous season's NCAA tournament.
No. 11 Michigan State defeated No. 25 Northwestern 91-70 Jan. 2 in Evanston despite 29 points by John Shurna
. The fifth-ranked Spartans then defeated the Wildcats 79-70 Jan. 30 in East Lansing as Shurna tied a career-high with 31 points.
Scouting Michigan State
The Spartans (9-4, 1-0) overcame a six-point halftime deficit to post a 71-62 home win over 14th-ranked Minnesota on Friday. Durrell Summers led MSU with 19 points.
Summers paces the Spartans with an average of 15.5 points per game, while Kalin Lucas contributes 14.5 points per contest.
Tom Izzo is in his 16th season as the head coach at his Michigan State. He has a career record of 373-150.
So Far, So Good
For the second consecutive season, Northwestern has started its campaign with at least nine wins in its first 11 games. A year ago, NU opened 10-1 en route to earning a No. 25 national ranking. Prior to last season, the Wildcats last opened with nine wins in their first 11 contests in the 1993-94 campaign. This year's team matched last year's squad which also posted a school-record five wins (5-1) in the month of November. The 2010-11 'Cats finished the program's first undefeated November when playing at least three games.
Northwestern ranks 16th in the nation with an impressive .489 field goal percentage this season. The Wildcats are 17th in 3-point field goal percentage, connecting on 40.6 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc. NU is also 14th with an average of 9.2 made 3-pointers per game. Individually, John Shurna is second nationally with a .618 3-point percentage and 13th with a .604 overall field goal percentage. His 10-for-11 performance from the field in a win over Long Island Dec. 13 ranks as a tie for the second-best effort in program history.
Northwestern is well known for playing "team" offense and that's reflected in the statistics. The Wildcats lead the Big Ten and rank sixth in the nation with an average of 18.5 assists per game. NU's assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.69 (204 assists, 121 turnovers) is the nation's fifth best mark.
Isn't It Grand!
John Shurna became the 30th player in Northwestern history to reach the 1,000 career point milestone when he scored his 16th point of the game with 8:24 remaining in the first half against American Dec. 16. He became the 17th player to do it in only three seasons. Senior point guard Michael Thompson also reached the mark in his third season. Shurna leads the Big Ten and ranks 11th nationally with an average of 22.2 points per game.
Thompson Leads the Way
Entering his senior season, Michael Thompson already established himself as one of the top players in program history. Thompson is currently 13th in school history with 1,302 career points after starting the season in 21st place. He became the second player in NU history to post 400 career assists when he reached the milestone Nov. 30 in a win over Georgia Tech. Thompson is just 22 assists shy of surpassing the record of 452 held by Patrick Baldwin (1991-94). A starter at point guard each of his four seasons, Thompson was a consensus honorable mention All-Big Ten pick in 2009-10.
A year after shattering the school season record with 317 3-point makes, the Wildcats have picked up right where they left off. NU leads the Big Ten and is 14th nationally with an average of 9.2 3-point makes per game this season. John Shurna ranks second among all Big Ten players with and average of 3.09 triples per contest. Ohio State's John Dieber is first at 3.14 makes per game.
A year after leading the Big Ten in scoring during conference play, Northwestern is putting a number of points on the board again this year. The Wildcats currently rank second in the Big Ten to only Ohio State with an average of 78.2 points per game. Northwestern's 97 points in its season-opener at Northern Illinois Nov. 12 marked its highest total in the 11-year Bill Carmody era and was its most since a 97-93 overtime win over No. 8 Michigan March 12, 1994. It was also the Wildcats' most points in a true road since a 98-77 victory at Valparaiso Dec. 9, 1975. Coupled with a 91-71 win over Georgia Tech and a 92-61 victory over St. Francis (N.Y.), NU has posted multiple games scoring over 90 points in the same season since the 1993-94 campaign when it reached the mark four times. Northwestern had scored 90 points in a game just twice in Bill Carmody's first 10 seasons as head coach.
It's a rare thing when Michael Thompson isn't on the court for Northwestern. Last season, he ranked fourth in the nation with an average of 37.7 minutes played per game. His average of 35.5 minutes per game this season ranks second in the Big Ten. Thompson has started all 106 games during his career as a Wildcat.
Northwestern continues its challenge starts to the Big Ten season Thursday as it travels to Illinois. The contest tips at 8 p.m. with ESPN2 providing live television coverage.
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