Jan. 16, 2013
VIDEO PREVIEWS: Coach Carmody
| R. Hearn
| D. Sobolewski
The Last Meeting
February 5, 2012
Shurna, Hearn Lead Northwestern to 74-70 Win at Illinois
John Shurna scored 17 of his game-high 24 points in the second half and Reggie Hearn added 16 of his career-high 20 in the opening stanza as Northwestern made the winning plays down the stretch to post a 74-70 victory over Illinois at Assembly Hall Sunday afternoon.
EVANSTON, Ill.-- Northwestern looks to continues it solid road start to the season Thursday as it travels to Champaign to take on Illinois. Tip-off is set for 7:15 p.m. at Assembly Hall.
The contest is being televised live by Big Ten Network and can also be heard on 720 AM WGN and at wgnradio.com.
The Wildcats are 4-1 in games played away from Evanston so far this season. NU posted neutral-site victories over TCU and Illinois State in the South Padre Island Invitational prior to notching true road wins at Baylor and Penn State. The lone loss was at then-No. 9 Minnesota.
Northwestern is aiming to bounce back from a 70-50 home loss to Iowa on Sunday. The Wildcats were held to 29.4 percent shooting in the contest. Dave Sobolewski posted team highs of 14 points and five assists.
Last Season: Northwestern and Illinois split their season series a year ago with each team winning on other's home court. The Illini posted a 57-56 win in Evanston Jan. 4 before the Wildcats earned a 74-70 victory in Champaign Feb. 5 behind John Shurna's 24 points.
The Fighting Illini (14-4, 1-3 Big Ten) dropped a 74-51 decision at Wisconsin last Saturday. D.J. Richardson paced Illinois with 16 points in the contest.
Brandon Paul leads the Illini and ranks second in the Big Ten with an average of 18.1 points per game while also leading the team with 4.9 rebounds per contest.
John Groce is in his first season as head coach at Illinois. He was previous the head coach at Ohio and has a 99-60 career record in five seasons overall as a head coach.
HE'S HEATING UP
Redshirt freshman Tre Demps struggled from the field to open the season, but he has come on strong. 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 10.4 points per game in the last eight contests while shooting 57.1 percent (16-28) from 3-point range.
Northwestern is in the midst of a tough opening start to the Big Ten season. Of the Wildcats' first seven Big Ten games, five of the contests are against teams that are ranked in this week's Associated Press poll. During that stretch, NU faces Michigan (No. 5), Indiana (No. 2) and Illinois (No. 23) 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 62.2 points per game after allowing 68.2 points per contest a year ago. NU is also holding its foes to a .414 field goal percentage. The 'Cats have held seven 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, while holding three others (Brown, Minnesota, Penn State) also under 20 points in the opening stanza.
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 4.5 assists per game ranks sixth 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 17 contests, Northwestern ranks 30th nationally with an average of 16.1 assists per game while leading the country with a .719 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 1.47 ratio (274 assists, 186 turnovers). NU ranked second nationally to only Wisconsin with a 1.70 mark in 2010-11.
PROTECTING THE ROCK
Though the end result didn't go the way they would have liked, the Wildcats did a great job of taking care of the basketball against Maryland Nov. 27. Northwestern committed just four turnovers in the entire contest, the fewest since it committed three in an overtime game at Illinois on Dec. 30, 2009. NU is committing an average of just 10.9 turnovers per game, ranking 14th in the nation.
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 8.2 makes through the first 17 games of the 2012-13 season, ranking 31st in the nation.
Graduate student Jared Swopshire has started every game for Northwestern this season in his first year with the program. When Swopshire plays well, the Wildcats seem to be successful. In NU's victories this season, he is averaging 11.9 points per game while shooting 48.1 percent from the field. In games the Wildcats have lost, Swopshire is averaging just 4.6 points per contest while shooting 30.0 percent from the field. He spent the last four seasons at Louisville, appearing in 109 contests with 23 starts while helping the team reach the Final Four last year. Swopshire is pursing his graduate degree in sports administration.
Northwestern returns home Sunday to take on second-ranked Indiana. Tip-off is set for noon.
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