Jan. 2, 2013
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern opens up its Big Ten season Thursday as it hosts second-ranked Michigan at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.
The contest is being televised live by ESPN2 and can be seen on WatchESPN. The contest can also be heard on 720 AM WGN and wgnradio.com.
It's the start of a challenging stretch to open conference play for the Wildcats as five of their first seven games are against teams that are ranked in the top 11 of this week's Associated Press poll.
Northwestern concluded nonconference play Dec. 23 when it posted a 63-42 home victory over Brown behind a season-high 13 3-pointers. Dave Sobolewski scored all of his team-high 14 points in the second half to go along with eight assists. NU scored the first 15 points of the game and never looked back.
Last Season: Michigan rallied to force overtime twice in earning a pair of wins over Northwestern last season. The Wolverines won 66-64 in Ann Arbor Jan. 11 and 67-55 in Evanston Feb. 21. The teams had split their last eight meetings before the Wolverines won last year's second contest.
The Wolverines (13-0) enter conference play ranked No. 2 in both of this week's national polls. Michigan is coming off an 88-73 win over Central Michigan on Saturday behind 22 points from Trey Burke.
Burke leads the team with an average of 17.8 points per game and ranks first in the Big Ten with a norm of 7.4 assists per contest. Michigan's .511 team field goal percentage ranks fifth in the nation.
John Beilein is in his sixth as head coach at Michigan where he has a 104-77 record. He has a 655-395 career record as a collegiate head coach.
HE'S HEATING UP
Redshirt freshman Tre Demps struggled from the field to open the season, but he has come on strong as of late. The guard missed each of his 14 3-point field goal attempts through Northwestern's first nine contests. However, he bounced back by hitting three of his four tries from beyond the arch Dec. 8 against Butler en route to scoring a career-best 15 points. Demps followed up the performance by hitting three of four triple tries again on Dec. 17 in a 12-point effort in a victory over Texas State and scored 12 more on Dec. 21 against Stanford. He is averaging 12.0 points per game in the last four contests.
Thursday's contest marks the beginning of a tough open start to the Big Ten season for Northwestern . Of the Wildcats' first seven Big Ten games, five of the contests are against teams that are ranked in the top 11 of this week's Associated Press poll. During that stretch, NU will face Michigan (No. 2), Indiana (No. 5) and Illinois (No. 11) once apiece as well as Minnesota (No. 9) twice.
DOING IT ON DEFENSE
Northwestern has taken a step forward defensively so far this season. The Wildcats are limiting their opponents to an average of 60.8 points per game after allowing 68.2 points per contest a year ago. NU is also holding its foes to a .398 field goal percentage. The 'Cats have held six of their opponents to below 40 percent shooting in a game. During the 2011-12 season, Northwestern's opponents shot 45.2 percent from the field. Three times this year (Texas Southern, Fairleigh Dickinson, TCU), the Wildcats have limited the opposition to 14 first-half points.
PROTECTING THE ROCK
Tonight's contest features two of the best teams in the nation in terms of taking care of the basketball. Michigan ranks fifth in the country with a norm of just 9.7 turnovers per contest while NU is committing an average of 11.3 turnovers per game, ranking 22nd nationally. The Wolverines' 1.69 assist-to-turnover ratio is the nation's third-best mark, while the Wildcats rank eighth at 1.52.
WILDCAT FASTBREAK DEBUTS JAN. 8
For the third-consecutive season, Wildcat Fastbreak is the exclusive weekly television show featuring the Northwestern basketball programs. Each week, the program debuts Tuesday evenings on Comcast SportsNet Chicago. The first episode of the season is set to air Jan. 8. Check NUsports.com/ontheair or local listings for air times. Also, for the first time, entire episodes can be viewed online via the Northwestern Athletics YouTube page. Dave Eanet, the Voice of the Wildcats, serves as the show's host and he'll discuss the week that was and the week ahead with NU head coaches Bill Carmody of the men's program and Joe McKeown of the women's program. The show also provides an exclusive inside look into Northwestern Basketball with feature stories and behind-the-scenes footage.
Northwestern hits the road to take on No. 9/13 Minnesota in Minneapolis on Sunday. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.
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