Jan. 27, 2012
Northwestern (12-7, 2-5 Big Ten) vs. Purdue (14-7, 4-4 Big Ten)
Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012
Welsh-Ryan Arena (8,117)
Evanston, Ill. 3 p.m.
TV: ESPN2 (Dave O'Brien and Dan Dakich)
Streaming Video: ESPN3.com
Audio: WGN 720 AM and wgnradio.com (Dave Eanet and Shon Morris); WNUR 89.3 FM and sports.wnur.org
In-game Twitter updates: @NU_SportsLIVE
Northwestern Game Notes (PDF)
Skip Myslenski's Preview
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern opens a stretch during which it plays three of its next four games at home Saturday when it takes on Purdue. Tip time is 3 p.m. with ESPN2 providing live television coverage.
The contest is sold out and fans are encouraged to arrive early to alleviate congestion at the gates.
The Wildcats are following up on a challenging first seven games of the Big Ten season. Six of the team's contests were either against teams that are currently ranked or are receiving votes or were on the road.
NU is looking to bounce back from a 75-52 loss at Minnesota on Sunday. The Wildcats were unable to overcome a slow start to the contest that saw them miss their first 14 field goal attempts. John Shurna, who leads the Big Ten in scoring, posted a game-high 21 points. Alex Marcotullio contributed 11 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, off the bench.
Saturday's contest features two of the top teams in the nation when it comes to taking care of the basketball. Purdue ranks second with an average of just 9.6 turnovers per game, while NU is third with 10.2 per contest.
Last Season: Northwestern lost its only meeting with Purdue a year ago, falling 82-69 to the 12th-ranked Boilermakers Dec. 31 in West Lafayette.
The Boilermakers (14-7, 4-4) have dropped their last two contests, including a 66-64 home loss to No. 20/19 Michigan on Tuesday. Lewis Jackson led Purdue with 17 points and eight assists.
Robbie Hummel paces the Boilermakers with averages of 15.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
Purdue ranks second in the Big Ten with a +4.6 turnover margin, forcing 14.2 turnovers per game while committing only 9.6 per contest.
Matt Painter is in his seventh season as the head coach at Purdue where he has a 152-71 record. He is 177-76 in eight seasons overall as a head coach.
STRIKING DOWN THE SPARTANS
Northwestern's victory over No. 6 Michigan State on Jan. 14 ranks as a tie for the highest ranked opponent that the Wildcats have beaten in Bill Carmody's 12 seasons as head coach. (The victory snapped the Spartans' 15-game winning streak.) Purdue was also ranked No. 6 when the 'Cats beat them 72-64 in Evanston Jan. 16, 2010. MSU was ranked No. 7 when the 'Cats posted a 70-63 win over the Spartans in East Lansing Jan. 21, 2009.
A CHALLENGING ROAD
Last Sunday's game at Minnesota concluded a span during which Northwestern played seven games over an eight-game stretch against teams that are either currently ranked, are receiving votes or the game was played on the road. This is the fourth consecutive season that NU has played three ranked teams among its first five conference games. Northwestern has the nation's sixth-highest strength of schedule to date.
WILDCATS IN THE RPI RANKINGS
Northwestern is ranked No. 34 nationally in the RPI through games played Thursday. The Wildcats have already played four teams in the top 12 in the rankings: Baylor (3), Michigan State (4), Ohio State (9) and Creighton (12). The team has won two of games against teams ranked in the top 20 of the RPI, defeating both Michigan State and Seton Hall (18). NU has the seventh-best ranked RPI in the Big Ten, trailing Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan (20), Indiana (23), Wisconsin (24) and Illinois (30).
SHOOTING FOR THE TOP
Northwestern's scoring record of 1,900 career points has stood since 1977 when Billy McKinney completed his collegiate eligibility. John Shurna is currently in third place on NU's career scoring list with 1,741 career points. Evan Eschmeyer ranks second with 1,805 points. Shurna scored a school single-season record 619 points as a sophomore and 531 points last season as a junior. He is the active Big Ten career leader with 36 games of scoring 20 or more points.
John Shurna tied a Northwestern record and was one shy of the Big Ten record when he knocked down nine 3-pointers in the Wildcats' win over Eastern Illinois Dec. 18. The nine triples tied Craig Moore's record established Nov. 22, 2008 at Brown. Shurna went 9-for-12 from beyond the arc in the contest and scored 32 points, marking his fifth career game scoring 30 or more points in a contest. He ranks first in the Big Ten with an average of 2.7 3-point field goals per game.
Three-Pointers Made, Division I Players 6-9 or taller (through 1/25/12)
Name, Team (Ht.) - 3FG
1. John Shurna, Northwestern (6-9) - 51
2. Robert Covington, Tenn. State (6-9) - 42
3. Josh Ritchart, UC Davis (6-9) - 37
3. Drew Windler, Samford (6-9) - 37
BOMBS AWAY!, PART 2
Northwestern leads the Big Ten and ranks 18th nationally with an average of 8.6 3-point makes per game. The Wildcats are 9-1 this season when making at least eight triples in a game. NU scorched the nets for 20 3-point field goals in its 92-67 win over Mississippi Valley State Dec. 2. The mark tied the school and Big Ten record for 3-pointers in a game, matching Northwestern's total against North Carolina A&T Dec. 13, 2009. NU assisted on 30 of its 34 field goals in the contest with the 30 helpers ranking as a tie for second in school history, two shy of the top mark and tied for the most against a Division I opponent.
Northwestern is well known for playing "team" offense and that's reflected in the statistics. The Wildcats rank second in the nation with a 1.56 assist-to-turnover ratio this season. NU ranked second nationally to only Wisconsin with a 1.70 mark a year ago. NU ranks third in the country with an average of just 10.2 turnovers per contest. Northwestern is assisting on 65.7 percent of its made field goals, the sixth-highest percentage nationally.
CHANGING OF THE GUARD
The Wildcats had some big shoes to fill in the backcourt with the graduation of Michael Thompson. A four-year starter, Thompson completed his career at NU's all-time leader in games played, games started, minutes played and assists, while ranking third all-time in scoring. Freshman Dave Sobolewski has stepped in valiantly in his stead. Through 19 games, all starts, Sobolewski is averaging 7.7 points and 3.9 assists per game and has committed just 23 turnovers in 655 minutes of action to go along with 74 assists. He scored a collegiate-best 20 points in a victory over Penn State Jan. 1. Sobolewski posted a career-high eight assists with no turnovers Dec. 22 at No. 23/21 Creighton.
Nation's Assist-to-Turnover Ratio Leaders
(min. 3.0 assists/game; through 1/26)
1. Randy Davis -- Ball State, Sr. - 3.72
2. Kendall Marshall -- North Carolina, So. - 3.31
3. Michael Bizoukas -- Missouri St., Sr. - 3.30
4. Dave Sobolewski -- Northwestern, Fr. - 3.22
4. Jay Threatt -- Delaware State, Sr. - 3.22
We're not sure which one is Batman and which one is Robin, but senior John Shurna and junior Drew Crawford have already shown that they form a pretty formidable 1-2 punch. Shurna leads the Big Ten with an average of 19.2 points per game, while Crawford is the Big Ten's fourth-leading scorer with a norm of 16.9 points per contest.
Northwestern returns to action next Thursday as it takes on new Big Ten member Nebraska. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
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