Feb. 1, 2012
Northwestern (12-8, 2-6 Big Ten) vs. Nebraska (11-9, 3-6 Big Ten)
Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012
Welsh-Ryan Arena (8,117)
Evanston, Ill. 6 p.m.
TV: ESPN2 (Dave O'Brien and Stephen Bardo)
Streaming Video: ESPN3.com
Audio: WGN 720 AM and wgnradio.com (Dave Eanet and Tim Doyle)
In-game Twitter updates: @NU_SportsLIVE
Northwestern Game Notes (PDF)
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern and Nebraska meet up on the hardwood for the first time since the Huskers joined the Big Ten Conference as the squads square off Thursday at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.
Thursday's matchup is the only regular season meeting between the teams this year.
Fans are asked to bring a donation of a gently used children's or young adult book to the Beck's Mobile Van which will be parked outside the arena on game day. Beck's staff will issue a voucher which can be redeemed for discounted $20 tickets, limit four, inside Welsh-Ryan Arena. All donations will benefit Foundation 65, the educational foundation for Evanston-Skokie School District 65.
The Wildcats are looking to turn around their fortune in close games. NU has lost three of its Big Ten contests this season by a combined five points. The most recent narrow loss came last Saturday when Northwestern dropped a 58-56 decision to Purdue. Robbie Hummel's tough baseline jumper with 8.1 seconds remaining was the difference. Drew Crawford
led all players with 23 points and eight rebounds, while John Shurna
contributed 15 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots.
Series History: Nebraska leads the all-time series with Northwestern 3-1. The teams haven't met since Nov. 27, 1999 when the Huskers posted a 61-52 victory in St. Louis, Mo. Each team has won once in the two previous matchups in Evanston. The 'Cats posted a 35-22 win Dec. 21, 1933 and Nebraska earned a 71-68 victory Dec. 20, 1976.
The Huskers (11-9, 3-6) are coming off a 79-73 win at Iowa last Thursday. Brandon Richardson led Nebraska with 25 points. He was named Big Ten Co-Player of the Week for his efforts.
Bo Spencer leads the team with an average of 14.9 points per game. Brandon Ubel paces the squad with a norm of 5.3 rebounds per contest.
Nebraska ranks first in the Big Ten with a .750 team free throw percentage.
Doc Sadler is in his sixth season as the head coach at Nebraska where he has a 100-80 record. He is 148-98 in eight seasons overall as a head coach.
ROUGH ON THE HUSKERS
Though Northwestern and Nebraska are meeting on the basketball court Thursday for the first time since Nebraska joined the Big Ten, two other Wildcat teams have already posted memorable wins over Husker squads this season. The first came Nov. 5 when the Northwestern football team went into Lincoln and posted a 28-25 victory over No. 9 Nebraska. The second big win came Nov. 26 when the NU volleyball team took down the second-ranked and Big Ten champion Huskers in four sets in Evanston (25-20, 9-25, 25-21, 25-23).
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
From Dec. 22 through Jan. 22, 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 eighth-highest strength of schedule to date.
WILDCATS IN THE RPI RANKINGS
Northwestern is ranked No. 45 nationally in the RPI through games played Sunday. The Wildcats' nine games to date against teams ranked in the top 50 of the RPI is tied for the second most in the nation, trailing only Michigan (10). Northwestern has top-50 wins over both Michigan State (4) and Seton Hall (32). NU has the eighth-best RPI in the Big Ten, trailing Michigan State, Ohio State (5), Michigan (19), Indiana (24), Wisconsin (25), Illinois (37) and Minnesota (38).
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 1,756 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.
Nation's Scoring Leaders from BCS Conferences (through 1/30)
Name, Team - Avg.
1. Terrell Stoglin, Maryland - 21.3
2. Kevin Jones, West Virginia - 20.9
3. John Jenkins, Vanderbilt - 20.0
4. J'Covan Brown, Texas - 19.7
5. John Shurna, Northwestern - 19.0
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 1/29)
Name, Team (Ht.) - 3FG
1. John Shurna, Northwestern (6-9) - 53
2. Robert Covington, Tennessee State (6-9) - 43
3. Drew Windler, Samford (6-9) - 40
4. Josh Ritchart, UC Davis (6-9) - 38
BOMBS AWAY!, PART 2
Northwestern leads the Big Ten and ranks 15th nationally with an average of 8.5 3-point makes per game. The Wildcats are 8-1 this season when making at least nine 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 fourth in the nation with a 1.52 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 10.4 turnovers per contest. Northwestern is assisting on 66.3 percent of its made field goals, the fifth-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 20 games, all starts, Sobolewski is averaging 7.8 points and 3.9 assists per game and has committed just 23 turnovers in 694 minutes of action to go along with 77 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 1/29)
1. Randy Davis -- Ball State, Sr. - 3.67
2. Kendall Marshall -- North Carolina, So. - 3.46
3. Michael Bizoukas -- Missouri State, Sr. - 3.39
4. Dave Sobolewski -- Northwestern, Fr. - 3.35
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 19.0 points per game, while Crawford is the Big Ten's third-leading scorer with a norm of 17.2 points per contest.
Northwestern returns to action Sunday as it travels to Champaign to face Illinois. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.
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