Jan. 5, 2013
EVANSTON, Ill.-- Northwestern looks to remain undefeated away from Evanston this season as it travels to No. 9/13 Minnesota on Sunday to open up the road portion of its Big Ten season.
Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. with Big Ten Network providing live television coverage. The game can also be heard on 720 AM WGN and at wgnradio.com
The Wildcats are undefeated in three games away from Welsh-Ryan Arena, defeating TCU and Illinois State in the South Padre Island Invitational before posting a victory at Baylor. Sunday's contest is NU's first game away from home since the win at Baylor on Dec. 4.
Northwestern dropped its conference opener at home to second-ranked Michigan on Thursday, falling 94-66. Kale Abrahamson and Jared Swopshire paced four Wildcats in double figures with 11 points apiece. The Wolverines scored the first 10 points of the contest and the 'Cats were never able to completely recover
Last Season: NU and Minnesota split their regular-season series a year ago. The Gophers won 75-52 in Minneapolis Jan. 22 before the 'Cats won 64-53 in Evanston Feb. 18. Minnesota then won 75-68 in overtime in the Big Ten tournament on March 8.
The Golden Gophers (13-1, 1-0 Big Ten) have won their last nine games, including a 76-63 home win over Michigan State in their league opener on Monday. Andre Hollins paced Minnesota with 22 points and six assists.
Hollins leads a balanced scoring attack with a norm of 13.6 points per game, while Rodney Williams contributes 13.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per contest.
Tubby Smith is in his sixth as head coach at Minnesota where he has a 116-69 record. He has a 503-214 career record in 22 years 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 11.6 points per game in the last five contests while shooting 68.8 percent (11-16) from 3-point range.
Sunday's contest continues 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 faces Michigan (No. 2), Indiana (No. 5) and Illinois (No. 11) once apiece as well as Minnesota (No. 9) twice.
DISHING IT OUT
Sophomore Dave Sobolewski has been in a giving mood so far this season. The point guard handed out a career-best nine assists in Northwestern's season-opening win over Texas Southern Nov. 13 and then followed it up with eight helpers against Mississippi Valley State Nov. 15. His average of 4.4 assists per game ranks fifth in the Big Ten. A year ago, Sobolewski led the Big Ten and paced all nation's freshmen with a 2.63 assist-to-turnover ratio. Through 14 contests, Northwestern ranks second the Big Ten with an average of 17.3 assists per game while leading the country with a .747 assist percentage.
Northwestern is well known for playing "team" offense and that's reflected in the statistics. The Wildcats ranked fourth in the nation with a 1.53 assist-to-turnover ratio last season and they're seventh in the nation so far this year with a 1.52 ratio (242 assists, 159 turnovers). NU ranked second nationally to only Wisconsin with a 1.70 mark in 2010-11. NU also ranked fourth in the country last season with an average of just 10.2 turnovers per contest.
Northwestern led the Big Ten and ranked fifth nationally in 2011-12 with an average of 9.0 3-point makes per game. The Wildcats have picked up where they left off, averaging 8.4 makes through the first 14 games of the 2012-13 season, ranking 24th in the nation.
Northwestern remains on the road next Thursday when it travels to Penn State. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. CT with ESPNU providing live television coverage.
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