Jan. 30, 2007
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Jan. 31, 2007 -- 7 p.m. CT
Northwestern (11-9, 1-6) vs.Minnesota (8-13, 2-5)
Welsh-Ryan Arena (8,117)
Radio -- WGN 720 AM (Dave Eanet and Dave Kaplan) & WNUR 89.3 FM
Television -- ESPN Plus Local, WWME in Chicago (Eric Collins and Shon Morris)
EVANSTON, Ill. -- After a bye weekend, Northwestern returns to the hardwood when it squares off against the Gophers for the second time in 11 days. In the last game against Minnesota on Jan. 20 -- a 55-40 win in Minneapolis -- Phoenix natives Vince Scott and Kevin Coble led the Wildcats with 15 and 13 points, respectively. It was Coble's first game back after sitting out the two previous games with an ankle injury.
In their last outing, the Wildcats nearly pulled off the upset of No. 5 Ohio State, but fell in the end 59-50 despite a team-high 15 points from Tim Doyle.
Minnesota (8-13, 2-5) snapped a five-game losing skid on Saturday with a 65-60 win over Penn State in Minneapolis. Lawrence McKenzie led four Golden Gophers in double-figures with 19 points while connecting on five 3-pointers.
Coble Among Top NU Freshmen
With his 12.0 ppg average, Kevin Coble is on pace to become just the fifth true-freshman to lead the Wildcats in scoring since the 1972-73 season when freshman became eligible for varsity competition. Ben Johnson was the last Wildcat to do it in 2000 when he averaged 11.6 ppg. Cedric Neloms also did it in 1992 with 14.4 ppg, Jim Stack in 1980 with 12.9 and Billy McKinney -- Northwestern's all-time leading scorer -- with 15.8 ppg in 1974.
Coble also is making an strong case for Big Ten All-Freshmen honors this season. Among conference newcomers, he ranks fourth in scoring (12.0), fifth in rebounding (4.7), sixth in FG percentage (.500) and third in 3FG percentage (.371). His perfect 5-of-5 shooting performance from behind the arc against Utah in December is tied for the best 3FG shooting performance in the Big Ten this season among all players. He averaged 20.3 ppg in three games at the San Juan Shootout and was named to the all-tournament team for his efforts. Northwestern is 4-1 this season when Coble leads the team in scoring. The only loss was a one-point setback to Tennessee Tech at the San Juan Shootout where Coble's 3-pointer at the buzzer rimmed out. He has 12 games this season in which he has scored in double digits and three 20-point games.
'Cats Rank Second Nationally in Assist/FG Ratio
Northwestern is second among all Division I teams in assist-to-field goal ratio, according to the latest statistical release Jan. 24. The Wildcats have assisted on 306-of-422 (.725) makes, more than 70 percent of their baskets. In the win over Northwestern State on New Year's Eve, the Wildcats assisted on 27-of-34 field goals, the most assists in the Carmody era. They trail only Sam Houston State who has a .746 ratio.
Doyle On Record-Setting Pace
With 107 assists, senior Tim Doyle is on pace to break Northwestern's single-season record for assists which currently stands at 154 (Patrick Baldwin, 1994). With his 5.35 apg average, he is on pace for 166 by season's end. Last year he became just the sixth player in Northwestern history to record at least 200 points, 100 rebounds and 100 assists in the same season. He is on pace to duplicate that feat again this year.
Date and Time Set for Indiana Game
ESPN has selected its Wildcard games for Feb. 27-28 and the Wildcats will face the Indiana Hoosiers at 6 p.m. CT on Wednesday, Feb. 28 in Evanston. The game will be broadcast live nationally on ESPN2. The national broadcast brings the total number of nationally televised regular-season games for the Wildcats to four (three of those at home). Northwestern has one more regular-season game slated on ESPN2 on Wednesday, Feb. 7 at home against in-state rival Illinois.
Unlike recent years, the Wildcats aren't relying on one or two players for a majority of the offense. This season Northwestern has had seven different players lead or tie for the team lead in scoring. Last season after 20 games, Vedran Vukusic (19.0 ppg) had led the team in scoring 17 times and led in 20-of-29 games overall.
Minnesota is led by interim head coach Jim Molinari who replaced Dan Monson after his resignation after the Clemson game -- 14 games ago. Since taking over, the Gophers are 6-8.
Junior guard Lawrence McKenzie leads Minnesota and is sixth in Big Ten scoring with 15.8 ppg, including 19 in the win over Penn State on Saturday. McKenzie possesses excellent range, connecting on 56 3-pointers, an average of 2.67 per game -- third best in the conference. Junior forward Dan Coleman is second with 14.7 ppg and eighth in the conference.
Minnesota has been playing without the services of starting center Spencer Tollackson (12.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg) who suffered a broken left hand earlier this month. He is questionable for tonight's game.
Jim Molinari, who replaced former head coach Dan Monson in November, is a native of Glen Ellyn, Ill., and a graduate of Glenbard West High School. After spending two years as a scout in the NBA, Molinari enjoyed a 24-year career as a collegiate head and assistant coach at the Division I level. For 11 seasons, he was the head coach at Bradley where he amassed a 176-150 record and guided the Braves to the postseason six times--five NIT appearances and a trip to the 1996 NCAA Tournament. From 1989-1991, he served as the head coach at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.
Scott Top Cat In Big Ten Action
Since his sub-par performance in the win over Wheaton (Ill.) back in December, senior Vince Scott has stepped up his play ever since and is averaging 9.6 points in Big Ten games -- best on the team. It started with 17 total rebounds and 12 points in the first two games of the San Juan Shootout. Then against Utah, Scott helped shut down the Utes' 7-foot-1 center Luke Nevill (19.6 ppg), holding him to just eight points. Also in that game, Scott was a perfect 5-of-5 from the field with three 3-pointers. Then in the win over Loyola (Md.), he remained perfect, going 7-of-7 from the field with a career-high 16 points in the win. In the win over Northwestern State, Scott recorded a career-high seven assists and seven rebounds in 25 minutes of action before scoring 11 points with two 3-pointers in the road loss at Michigan State. In the recent road win at Minnesota, he led the 'Cats with 15 points and hit three from downtown. He hit three more treys in the loss to No. 5 Ohio State at home.
Northwestern In The NCAA Ranks
According to the latest NCAA Division I statistical report released Jan. 28, Northwestern ranks No. 10 nationally scoring defense, giving up just 56.6 ppg. They also are fifth in fewest turnovers per game (11.0) and 10th with only 14.5 personal fouls per contest. Its 8.8 steals per game is good for 34th. Individually, Tim Doyle is 39th in the nation with 5.35 assists per game. He had eight in the loss to Wisconsin Jan. 13 and a career-high nine against Northwestern State on New Year's Eve.
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