Jan. 25, 2013
The Last Meeting
February 2, 2012
EVANSTON, Ill.-- Winners of two of their last three contests---all against ranked opponents--and 5-1 away from home this season, Northwestern makes its first trip to Lincoln in 37 years on Saturday as it squares off against Nebraska.
Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. with ESPNU providing live television coverage. The game can also be heard on 720 AM WGN and at wgnradio.com.
The Wildcats posted two wins over ranked foes in a seven-day span, notching a 68-54 victory at then-No. 23/22 Illinois on Jan. 17 as well as a 55-48 home win over No. 12/14 Minnesota on Wednesday. Jared Swopshire led the 'Cats with 16 points and eight rebounds in the victory over the Golden Gophers. An 18-4 second-half run keyed the victory.
Saturday's contest marks Northwestern's first trip to Lincoln since Nebraska became a member of the Big Ten Conference. The only previous meeting between the teams in Lincoln was a 79-68 victory for the Cornhuskers on Nov. 29, 1975.
Last Season: Northwestern won the only meeting between the teams a year ago, 84-74 in Evanston Feb. 2 behind 28 points from John Shurna. Nebraska leads the all-time series between the schools, 3-2.
The Cornhuskers (10-10, 1-6 Big Ten) dropped a 71-51 decision at home to Illinois on Tuesday. Dylan Talley led Nebraska with 16 points.
Talley paces the Huskers with an average of 13.1 points per game, while Ray Gallegos contributes 12.8 per contest. Brandon Ubel chips in 11.9 points with a team-high 6.7 rebounds per game.
Tim Miles is in his first season as head coach at Nebraska. He was previously the head coach at Colorado State and North Dakota State and has a 293-230 career record in 19 seasons overall as a head coach.
(H)EARNING HIS KEEP
Senior guard Reggie Hearn enjoyed a stellar week for the Wildcats last week. He tallied a team-high 20 points on Thursday in leading Northwestern to a convincing 68-54 victory at then-No. 23/22 Illinois. It was the second straight year that Hearn scored 20 points in a victory at Assembly Hall. The Indiana native followed up the performance by scoring a game-high 22 points against his homestate school on Sunday. He shot 57.9 percent from the field and 89.5 percent from the free throw line (17-19) in the two contests. The former walk-on leads the Wildcats and ranks ninth in the Big Ten with a scoring average of 14.4 points per game while leading the team with a .506 field goal percentage.
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 12.3 points per game while shooting 50.0 percent from the field. In games the Wildcats have lost, Swopshire is averaging just 5.6 points per contest while shooting 34.0 percent from the field. Northwestern is 8-2 when he scores in double figures but is 4-6 when he tallies nine points or less. 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.
COMING ON STRONG
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 11 contests--scoring in double figures nine times during that span--while shooting 50.0 percent (18-36) from 3-point range.
Everyone knows how good of a conference the Big Ten is this year and Northwestern has certainly been challenged to begin the season. The Wildcats played five of their first seven contests against teams that were ranked at the time. During that span, NU faced Minnesota twice as well as Michigan, Indiana and Illinois once apiece.
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 61.3 points per game after allowing 68.2 points per contest a year ago. NU is also holding its foes to a .411 field goal percentage. The 'Cats have held eight 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. The 48 points scored by Minnesota on Jan. 23 were the Gophers' lowest total of the season by 18 points (66 vs. Stanford) and were the fewest allowed by NU in a Big Ten game since Illinois had 48 on Feb. 18, 2007.
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 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 20 contests, Northwestern ranks 41st nationally with an average of 15.4 assists per game while ranking second in the country with a .708 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 10th in the nation so far this year with a 1.41 ratio (308 assists, 219 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 11.0 turnovers per game, ranking 12th 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 7.9 makes through the first 19 games of the 2012-13 season, ranking 37th in the nation.
Northwestern returns to action on Wednesday as it travels to Ann Arbor to wrap up its season series with Michigan. The Wildcats return home to face Purdue on Saturday, Feb. 2.
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