Jan. 11, 2014
Skip Myslenski's Game Primer
EVANSTON, Ill. -- In-state foes square off at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Sunday as Northwestern takes on visiting Illinois. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m.
The contest is the lone regular-season matchup between the teams this season.
The game is the second of what will be three straight games against ranked opponents for the Wildcats who will play four ranked squads over their first five league contests.
NU dropped a 93-67 decision at No. 20/23 Iowa on Thursday evening. JerShon Cobb paced the Wildcats with 18 points and seven rebounds. Northwestern was unable to overcome 64.3 percent shooting by the Hawkeyes in the second half.
Last Season: Northwestern and Illinois split their season series a year ago, with each team winning on the other's home court. The 'Cats notched their second straight win in Champaign, leading wire-to-wire in a 68-54 victory Jan. 17 before Illinois won 62-41 one month later in Evanston. Northwestern has won four of the last seven meetings between the schools.
The Fighting Illini suffered a 95-70 loss at Wisconsin on Wednesday. Rayvonte Rice led Illinois with 19 points while Joseph Bertrand added 18.
Rice, a transfer from Drake, paces the Big Ten with an average of 18.8 points per game and the team with a norm of 6.0 rebounds per contest.
John Groce is in his second season as the head coach at Illinois where he has a 36-16 record. He has a 121-72 mark in six seasons overall as a head coach.
DEEP AND TALENTED BIG TEN
The strength of the Big Ten Conference is certainly evident when looking at the start of Northwestern's league slate. After opening up against No. 4/5 Wisconsin, the Wildcats traveled to defending national runner-up Michigan before heading to No. 20/23 Iowa. Following Sunday's game against No. 23 Illinois, NU hosts No. 5/4 Michigan State next Wednesday before making the trek to reigning Big Ten regular-season champion Indiana.
Drew Crawford is the Big Ten's active leading scorer with 1,654 career points. The total ranks fifth in school history and is 35 points behind Michael Thompson (2008-11) for fourth place. Crawford missed most of last season due to injury and returned to the Northwestern lineup with a vengeance in the season-opener against Eastern Illinois, hitting five 3-pointers and scoring a game-high 25 points. The point total was the highest by a Wildcat in a season-opener since John Shurna scored 31 in a victory at Northern Illinois Nov. 12, 2010. Crawford ranks 12th in the Big Ten in scoring (15.9 ppg) and seventh in rebounding (6.9 rpg).
Active Division I Players with 1,600 Career Points and 600 Career Rebounds
(through games played Jan. 9--courtesy STATS, Inc.)
Name (Team) - Points - Reb.
Doug McDermott (Creighton) - 2,581 - 954
Cleveland Melvin (DePaul) - 1,741 - 691
Javon McCrea (Buffalo) - 1,658 - 806
Drew Crawford (Northwestern) - 1,654 - 612
Augustine Rubit (S. Alabama) - 1,658 - 1,051
Crawford's Northwestern Career Ranks:
Games Played: 3rd--126
Games Started: 3rd--125
Field Goal Attempts: 4th--1,350
Field Goals: 5th--599
3-Point Field Goals: 5th--205
3-Point Field Goal Attempts: 5th--568
Blocked Shots: 7th--87
Northwestern sophomore center Alex Olah has been extremely accurate from the field over the team's first three Big Ten games. Against Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, Olah has shot a combined 16 for 22 (72.7 percent), including 16 for 19 on two-point attempts. Included in the start was a 10-for-14 effort from the field vs. Wisconsin en route to a career-best 23-point performance. Overall this season, Olah ranks fourth in the conference, shooting 57.7 percent. As a freshman, Olah shot 41.5 percent from the field.
DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE
When Drew Crawford (26 points, 10 rebounds) and Sanjay Lumpkin (13 points, 10 rebounds) both posted double-doubles against Mississippi Valley State Dec. 16, it marked the first time that Northwestern teammates posted double-doubles in the same game since John Shurna (21 points, 13 rebounds) and Luka Mirkovic (11 points, 11 rebounds) accomplished the feat in a 53-44 win over Texas-Pan American Jan. 7, 2010.
After sitting out all of last season, JerShon Cobb has been impressive in his return to the court. Cobb handed out a career-high eight assists in the Wildcats' season-opener vs. Eastern Illinois. He followed up the performance by scoring 19 points at Stanford Nov. 14 and then scored 19 again vs. Illinois State Nov. 17. Cobb's 11 free throws and 14 attempts against the Redbirds were both career highs. The 14 attempts were the most by a Northwestern player since Jitim Young had 15 vs. Michigan State on March 12, 2004. Cobb also posted a career-best 12 rebounds in a win at UIC Nov. 20 and knocked down the game-winning shot with 2.3 seconds remaining in a 63-61 win over IUPUI Nov. 22. His 22 points vs. Missouri Nov. 28 and again the following day vs. UCLA were two shy of his career high achieved vs. Minnesota on March 8, 2012.
BOOST OFF THE BENCH
Tre Demps has provided Northwestern with some scoring punch off the bench so far this season. The redshirt sophomore is averaging 9.9 points per game, including scoring in double figures eight times. Demps posted a career-best 23-point performance against DePaul Dec. 27. The point total was the highest in a game by a Northwestern player off the bench since Cedric Neloms scored 25 vs. Ohio State on Feb. 10, 1993.
Big Ten Non-Starter Scoring Leaders
(through games played Jan. 9)
Name (Team) - Avg.
Jarrod Uthoff (Iowa) - 10.3
Tre Demps (Northwestern) - 9.9
Deverell Biggs (Nebraska) - 9.9
Malik Smith (Minnesota) - 9.7
Bryson Scott (Purdue) - 9.1
HITTING THE GLASS
Redshirt freshman Sanjay Lumpkin has been an effective rebounder so far this season. His average of 5.3 rebounds per game ranks second among all Big Ten freshmen, trailing only Indiana's Noah Vonleh (9.5 rpg). Lumpkin notched his first career double-figure rebounding game on Nov. 17 vs. Illinois State. His 11 rebounds were the most by an NU freshman since Drew Crawford had 12 in an NIT game at Rhode Island March 17, 2010. He followed it up with 10 boards at UIC, which coupled with 10 points gave him his first collegiate double-double. Lumpkin is the first NU player with double-figure rebounds in consecutive games since Crawford vs. Purdue (10) and at Rhode Island March 12 and 17 of 2010. A second double-double followed for Lumpkin against Mississippi Valley State Dec. 16, posting 13 points and 10 boards. Lumpkin is the first NU freshman to post 10+ rebounds in three or more games since Evan Eschmeyer had four during the 1995-96 season.
COLLINS INKS STELLAR RECRUITING CLASS
Head coach Chris Collins hit the ground running in terms of recruiting in his first season with the Wildcats. Northwestern inked four individuals during November's early signing period with the class currently ranking No. 25 nationally according to ESPN.com. The class is headlined by forward Vic Law (South Holland, Ill./St. Rita), ranked as the No. 66 national recruit by ESPN.com as well as a nominee for the McDonald's All-American Game. Law is rated as a four-star recruit, as is guard Bryant McIntosh (Greensburg, Ind./Greensburg). The other signees to date include forward Gavin Skelly (Westlake, Ohio/Westlake) and guard Scottie Lindsey (Oak Park, Ill./Fenwick), both rated three-star recruits.
Northwestern remains at home Wednesday as it faces another ranked team when Michigan State comes to Welsh-Ryan Arena. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.
Be the first to know what's going on with the 'Cats -- Follow @NU_Sports on Twitter, become a fan of Northwestern Athletics on Facebook, subscribe to the NU Sports Express e-newsletter and sign up to receive promotional text alerts for the latest news, schedule updates and video and to interact with NU. For more information on following specific Northwestern teams online, visit our Social Media page!