Feb. 1, 2013
Skip Myslenski's Preview
EVANSTON, Ill.-- Northwestern opens up the second half of the Big Ten season by hosting Purdue on Saturday at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Tip-off is set for 11 a.m.
The contest is being televised live by ESPN2 and can also be heard on 720 AM WGN and online at wgnradio.com.
The Wildcats are in the middle of a span during which it plays four of five games on the road. Saturday's game is the lone home contest during the stretch.
NU is looking to bounce back after suffering a 68-46 loss at top-ranked Michigan on Wednesday. Alex Olah led the Wildcats with 10 points while Jared Swopshire contributed 8 points and 8 rebounds. Swopshire is averaging 12.0 points and 9.2 rebounds over the last five contests. He ranks eighth in the Big Ten with a norm of 6.6 boards per game.
Last Season: Purdue won both meetings between the teams a year ago. The Boilermakers posted a 58-56 win in Evanston Jan. 28. Purdue also notched an 87-77 victory Feb. 12 in West Lafayette despite Northwestern getting 30 points from John Shurna.
The Boilermakers (11-10, 4-4) are coming off a 97-60 home loss to No. 3 Indiana on Wednesday. Freshman center A.J. Hammons led Purdue with 30 points.
Terone Johnson leads the team with an average of 13.1 points per game. Hammons contributes 10.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and a Big Ten-leading 2.1 blocked shots per contest.
Matt Painter is in his eighth season as head coach at Purdue where he has a 171-87 record. He has a 196-92 career record in nine seasons overall as a head coach.
HALL OF FAME DAY
Northwestern is recognizing five individuals who were inducted into the school's Athletics Hall of Fame Friday night. This year's class consists of Garland Cooper (softball, '07), Matt Grevers (swimming, '07), Eric Hutchinson (football, '71), Kristen Kjellman (lacrosse, '07) and Patrick G. Ryan (honorary). Ryan and his wife, Shirley Welsh Ryan, were major contributors to the most recent renovation of the Northwestern basketball arena and the facility bears their name in recognition.
(H)EARNING HIS KEEP
Senior guard Reggie Hearn has taken his game to another level during his senior season. He tallied a team-high 20 points on Jan. 17 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 Jan. 20. The former walk-on leads the Wildcats and ranks 13th in the Big Ten with a scoring average of 13.7 points per game while leading the team with a .474 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. Northwestern is 8-3 when he scores in double figures but is 4-7 when he tallies nine points or less. His 16 rebounds against Nebraska on Jan. 26 were the most by a Northwestern player since Evan Eschmeyer had 21 against Penn State on Jan. 20, 1999. Over the last five contests, he is averaging 12.0 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Swopshire spent the last four seasons at Louisville, appearing in 109 contests with 23 starts while helping the team reach the Final Four last year. He is pursing his graduate degree in sports administration.
Everyone knows how good of a conference the Big Ten is this year and Northwestern has certainly been challenged to begin the season. Wednesday's game at Michigan marked the Wildcats' sixth ranked opponent in their first nine league contests. During that span, NU faced Minnesota and Michigan twice as well as 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 61.8 points per game after allowing 68.2 points per contest a year ago. NU is also holding its foes to a .417 field goal percentage. The 'Cats have held nine 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 at the time by 18 points 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. His average of 4.2 assists per game ranks fourth in the Big Ten. 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. A year ago, Sobolewski led the Big Ten and paced all nation's freshmen with a 2.63 assist-to-turnover ratio.
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 13th in the nation so far this year with a 1.37 ratio (327 assists, 238 turnovers). NU ranked second nationally to only Wisconsin with a 1.70 mark in 2010-11. Northwestern ranks third in the country with a .693 assist percentage.
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 10.8 turnovers per game, ranking 10th 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 are averaging 7.6 makes this season and are 8-1 when they make at least eight shots from behind the arch.
Northwestern heads back out on the road next Saturday as it travels to Iowa. Tip-off is set for 3:30 p.m.
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