Jan. 5, 2011
Northwestern (9-3, 0-2 Big Ten) at #20 Illinois (12-3, 2-0)
Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011
Assembly Hall (16,618)
Champaign, Ill. 8 p.m.
TV: ESPN2 (Bob Wischusen and Stephen Bardo)
Audio: 720 AM WGN and wgnradio.com (Dave Eanet and Bob Hildebrand)
Satellite Radio: Sirius 121 and XM 141 (Illinois broadcast)
In-game Twitter updates: @NU_SportsLIVE
Northwestern Game Notes (PDF)
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern plays its third consecutive game against a ranked opponent to open the Big Ten season as it travels to No. 20 Illinois on Thursday. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. from Assembly Hall.
A year ago, NU began conference play with 10 consecutive games against teams that appeared in the NCAA tournament the previous season.
The Wildcats nearly pulled off a miraculous comeback at home against 18th-ranked Michigan State on Monday but came up just short, falling 65-62. NU trailed by 13 with just over three minutes remaining and trimmed the deficit to one with 28.2 seconds left but couldn't make it all the way back. Drew Crawford led Northwestern with 17 points and eight rebounds.
Thursday's matchup features two of the top offensive teams in the Big Ten. Northwestern ranks second with an average of 76.8 points per game, while Illinois is third at 76.6. The Illini is fourth in the nation with a .423 3-point field goal percentage, while the Wildcats' mark of .408 ranks 17th.
Last season: Illinois defeated No. 25 Northwestern 89-83 in overtime Dec. 30 in Champaign. NU tied its own Big Ten record with 47 3-point attempts in the contest. The Wildcats earned a season split with a 73-68 victory in Evanston Jan. 23.
The Illini (12-3, 2-0) posted a 69-61 home win over Wisconsin on Saturday. Demetri McCamey led Illinois with 21 points and seven assists.
McCamey paces the Illini with an average of 16.3 points per game and is fifth in the nation with a norm of 7.3 assists per contest.
Bruce Weber is in his eighth season as the head coach at Illinois where he has a 185-75 record. He has a career record of 288-129 in 13 overall seasons as a head coach.
So Far, So Good
For the second consecutive season, Northwestern 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 17th in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage, connecting on 40.8 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc. NU is also 14th with an average of 9.3 made 3-pointers per game. Individually, John Shurna is second nationally with a .583 3-point percentage. His 10-for-11 performance overall 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 are second in the Big Ten and rank 12th in the nation with an average of 18.0 assists per game. NU's assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.65 (216 assists, 131 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 ranks 16th nationally with an average of 21.3 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 12th in school history with 1,314 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 18 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 9.3 3-point makes per game this season. John Shurna ranks third among all Big Ten players with an average of 2.92 triples per contest.
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 76.8 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.
Shurna Selected to Watch List for Naismith and Wooden Award
John Shurna is one of 50 individuals named to the preseason watch list for both the John Wooden Award and the Naismith Award which are presented to the nation's top college basketball player. The Big Ten led all nation's conferences with 10 individuals named to each of the lists.
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 35.8 minutes per game this season ranks second in the Big Ten. Thompson has started all 107 games during his career as a Wildcat.
Northwestern returns home Sunday to take on Indiana. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. with Big Ten Network providing live television coverage.
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