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    Northwestern Hosts Iowa Thursday Seeking Third Straight Win

    Alex Marcotullio grabbed a team-high seven rebounds in Sunday's win at Illinois.

    Alex Marcotullio grabbed a team-high seven rebounds in Sunday's win at Illinois.

    Feb. 8, 2012

    Northwestern (14-8, 4-6 Big Ten) vs. Iowa (13-11, 5-6 Big Ten)
    Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012
    Welsh-Ryan Arena (8,117)
    Evanston, Ill. • 8 p.m.
    ESPNU (Jim Barbar and Tim McCormick)
    Streaming Video:
    Audio: WGN 720 AM and (Dave Eanet and Tim Doyle)
    In-game Twitter updates: @NU_SportsLIVE
    Tickets: Available at or by calling 888-GO-PURPLE
    Northwestern Game Notes (PDF)

    Watch Shurna's Interview on BTN

    EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern aims for its third consecutive win to open the month of February as its hosts Iowa on Thursday at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.

    The Wildcats followed up an 84-74 home win over Nebraska on Thursday with a 74-70 victory at Illinois on Sunday. John Shurna led NU with a game-high 24 points against the Illini, while Reggie Hearn contributed a career-high 20 points. Northwestern shot a season-best 60.4 percent from the field in the matchup, including 66.7 percent in the second half. The 'Cats made 12 of 13 field goal attempts during one stretch late in the contest.

    John Shurna's BTN Interview

    Thursday's meeting features the two individuals named Big Ten Co-Player of the Week on Monday. NU point guard Dave Sobolewski averaged 14.5 points per game in the Wildcats' two wins, while Iowa forward Aaron White led the Hawkeyes to a pair of victories as well while averaging 13.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.

    Last Season: Northwestern won both regular-season meetings with Iowa, posting a 90-71 victory Jan. 12 in Iowa City and a 73-70 win Feb. 17 in Evanston.

    • The Hawkeyes (13-11, 5-6 Big Ten) have won their last two, including a posting a 77-64 home win over Penn State last Saturday. Matt Gatens led Iowa with 18 points, while Bryce Cartwright and Aaron White added 17 apiece.
    • Gatens paces the team with an average of 13.9 points per game. He ranks third in the Big Ten with a .852 free throw percentage and is averaging 18.7 points over the last three contests.
    • Iowa leads the league with a norm of 8.2 steals per contest.
    • Fran McCaffery is in his second season as the head coach at Iowa where he has a 24-31 record. He is 275-208 in 16 seasons overall as a head coach.

    John Shurna and Dave Sobolewski were honored Feb. 6 by being named Big Ten Player of the Week and Big Ten Freshman of the Week, respectively, after leading the Wildcats to wins over Nebraska and Illinois. Shurna averaged 26 points per game and shot 71.4 percent from the field to earn the fifth such honor of his career and his first of the season. Sobolewski posted norms of 14.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game in the Wildcats' two wins.

    Northwestern has enjoyed a great deal of success in games televised on ESPNU this season. The 'Cats are a perfect 5-0 in games broadcast by the network in 2011-12, including three wins at the Charleston Classic (LSU, Tulsa, Seton Hall) as well as a road win at Georgia Tech and a home victory over Penn State.

    The Wildcats have donned alternate black uniforms twice so far this season and have come away with victories both times. NU first wore the uniforms at home Jan. 14 against No. 6 Michigan State and the 'Cats posted an 81-74 upset victory. Northwestern wore them again on the road Feb. 5 at Illinois and earned a 74-70 win.

    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.

    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.

    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 second place on NU's career scoring list with 1,808 career points. He surpassed Evan Eschmeyer for second place Feb. 5 with a 24-point performance in a victory at Illinois. 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 38 games of scoring 20 or more points.

    Nation's Scoring Leaders from BCS Conferences (through 2/5)
    Name, Team - Avg.

    1. Terrell Stoglin, Maryland - 21.7
    2. Kevin Jones, West Virginia - 20.8
    3. John Jenkins, Vanderbilt - 19.7
    4. J'Covan Brown, Texas - 19.6
    5. John Shurna, Northwestern - 19.6

    Northwestern is ranked No. 37 nationally in the RPI through games played Sunday. The Wildcats' 10 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 (12). Northwestern has top-50 wins over Michigan State (6), Seton Hall (33) and Illinois (46). NU has the sixth-best RPI in the Big Ten, trailing Ohio State (4), Michigan State, Michigan (15), Indiana (18), and Wisconsin (30).

    Northwestern enters Thursday's game with a 4-6 Big Ten record, but isn't far away from being much better. The 'Cats have lost three of their league games by a total of five points, falling to Illinois at home by one as well as at Michigan and at home vs. Purdue by two apiece.

    From Dec. 22 through Jan. 22, Northwestern played seven games over an eight-game stretch against teams that are either currently ranked, were 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 10th-highest strength of schedule to date.

    John Shurna ranks first in the Big Ten with an average of 2.6 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 2/5)
    Name, Team (Ht.) - 3FG
    1. John Shurna, Northwestern (6-9) - 58
    2. Robert Covington, Tenn. State (6-9) - 47
    3. Josh Ritchart, UC Davis (6-9) - 47
    4. Drew Windler, Samford (6-9) - 44

    Northwestern leads the Big Ten and ranks 10th nationally with an average of 8.7 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 third 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 fourth in the country with an average of just 10.3 turnovers per contest. Northwestern is assisting on 65.3 percent of its made field goals, the seventh-highest percentage nationally.

    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 22 games, all starts, Sobolewski is averaging 8.4 points and 3.8 assists per game and has committed just 25 turnovers in 772 minutes of action to go along with 84 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. He was named Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week Feb. 6 for his efforts in wins over Nebraska and Illinois.

    Nation's Assist-to-Turnover Ratio Leaders (min. 3.0 assists/game; through 2/5)
    1. Randy Davis -- Ball State, Sr. - 3.81
    2. Kendall Marshall -- North Carolina, So. - 3.42
    3. Dave Sobolewski -- Northwestern, Fr. - 3.36
    4. Michael Bizoukas -- Missouri State, Sr. - 3.27

    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 19.6 points per game, while Crawford is the Big Ten's fourth-leading scorer with a norm of 17.2 points per contest.

    With key returners JerShon Cobb, Alex Marcotullio and Drew Crawford battling early-season injuries, junior guard/forward Reggie Hearn got the starting nod in NU's season-opener and the 21 games since. Making his first collegiate start, the former walk-on posted a stellar all-around performance vs. UTPA Nov. 11. In 28 minutes of playing time, Hearn posted seven points and career highs of five rebounds, four assists and three steals as well as a blocked shot. Hearn scored a career-high 20 points Feb. 5 in a road win at Illinois. We went 7-for-8 from the field in the contest, including making all six tries during his 16-point first-half performance.

    UP NEXT...
    Northwestern returns to action Sunday as it travels to Purdue. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. Central time with the game being televised by Big Ten Network.


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