Feb. 3, 2012
Northwestern (13-8, 3-6 Big Ten) at Illinois (16-6, 5-4 Big Ten)
Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012
Assembly Hall (16,612)
Champaign, Ill. 2 p.m.
TV: Big Ten Network (Eric Collins and Shon Morris)
Audio: WGN 720 AM and wgnradio.com (Dave Eanet and Bob Hildebrand)
In-game Twitter updates: @NU_SportsLIVE
Northwestern Game Notes (PDF)
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern begins the second half of its Big Ten schedule Sunday as it travels to Champaign to face Illinois. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.
The Wildcats are coming off an 84-74 home win over Nebraska on Thursday. NU made 10 of its 14 3-point field goals in the first half in surging out to a 15-point halftime lead. John Shurna paced Northwestern with 28 points, while Drew Crawford and Dave Sobolewski contributed 21 and 15, respectively.
Sunday's contest features two of the top scorers in the Big Ten. Shurna paces the league in all games played with an average of 19.4 points per game. He's third in conference play at 19.3 points per contest. Meanwhile, Illinois' Brandon Paul ranks first in Big Ten play at 19.8 points per game. The pair have the two highest scoring games by Big Ten players this season. Paul scored 43 points vs. Ohio State Jan. 10, while scored tallied 37 vs. LSU Nov. 17.
Last Meeting: Illinois held off Northwestern 57-56 Jan. 4 in Evanston. John Shurna scored 17 of his game-high 20 points in the first half for the Wildcats.
The Fighting Illini (16-6, 5-4) is coming off a 42-41 home win over No. 9 Michigan State on Tuesday. Brandon Paul led Illinois with 18 points and nine rebounds.
Paul paces the team with an average of 14.8 points per game. His norm of 19.8 points per game in Big Ten play leads the league. Meyers Leonard paces the conference with 2.1 blocked shots per game and is third with 8.0 rebounds per contest.
Bruce Weber is in his ninth season as the head coach at Illinois where he has a 209-92 record. He is 312-146 in 14 seasons overall as a head coach.
CRAWFORD EARNS ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT RECOGNITION
Junior forward Drew Crawford
was selected to the Capital One Academic All-District 5 team selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) on Feb. 2. By virtue of the honor, he is now eligible for Academic All-America recognition. It is the second straight season that Crawford has earned the All-District honor. He carries a 3.40 grade-point average while majoring in economics.
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.
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 1,784 career points, 21 points shy of Evan Eschmeyer who 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 2/2)
Name, Team - Avg.
1. Terrell Stoglin, Maryland - 21.8
2. Kevin Jones, West Virginia - 20.9
3. John Jenkins, Vanderbilt - 19.9
4. J'Covan Brown, Texas - 19.7
5. John Shurna, Northwestern - 19.4
WILDCATS IN THE RPI RANKINGS
Northwestern is ranked No. 45 nationally in the RPI through games played Thursday. 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 (11). Northwestern has top-50 wins over both Michigan State (5) and Seton Hall (32). NU has the seventh-best RPI in the Big Ten, trailing Michigan State, Ohio State (7), Michigan (14), Indiana (9), Wisconsin (20) and Illinois (25).
Northwestern enters Sunday's game with a 3-6 Big Ten record, but isn't far away from having that mark reversed. The 'Cats have lost three of their league games by a total of five points, falling to Illinois by one as well as Michigan and Purdue by two apiece.
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.
John Shurna ranks first in the Big Ten with an average of 2.7 3-point field goals per game. He 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.
Three-Pointers Made, Division I Players 6-9 or taller (through 2/2)
Name, Team (Ht.) - 3FG
1. John Shurna, Northwestern (6-9) - 56
2. Robert Covington, Tenn. State (6-9) - 45
3. Drew Windler, Samford (6-9) - 42
3. Josh Ritchart, UC Davis (6-9) - 42
BOMBS AWAY!, PART 2
Northwestern leads the Big Ten and ranks 10th nationally with an average of 8.8 3-point makes per game. The Wildcats are 9-1 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 first in the nation with a 1.54 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 10.3 turnovers per contest. Northwestern is assisting on 66.7 percent of its made field goals, the third-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 2/2)
1. Randy Davis -- Ball State, Sr. - 3.65
2. Kendall Marshall -- North Carolina, So. - 3.50
3. Michael Bizoukas -- Missouri State, Sr. - 3.37
4. Dave Sobolewski -- Northwestern, Fr. - 3.28
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 19.4 points per game, while Crawford is the Big Ten's third-leading scorer with a norm of 17.4 points per contest.
Northwestern returns to action Thursday as it hosts Iowa at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.
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