Feb. 9, 2010
Northwestern at Iowa
Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010
Carver-Hawkeye Arena (15,500)
Iowa City, Iowa 7:30 p.m. CT
TV: Big Ten Network (Tom Werme and Kenyon Murray)
Audio: WGN 720-AM and wgnradio.com (Dave Eanet and Bob Hildebrand)
Satellite Radio: Sirius 90 and XM 196
In-game Twitter updates: @NU_SportsLIVE
Northwestern Game Notes (PDF)
EVANSTON, Ill. -
Northwestern looks to match the school record for regular-season wins Wednesday as it travels to Iowa. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. with Big Ten Network providing live television coverage. The 1982-83 and 2008-09 teams both notched 17 victories during the regular season.
The Wildcats (16-7, 5-6 Big Ten) are also trying to get back to .500 in Big Ten play after winning each of their last two contests. Most recently, NU opened the game on an 18-4 run and never looked back in posting a 78-61 home win over Indiana on Sunday. All five Northwestern starters scored in double figures, led by 16 points and six assists by John Shurna. Jeremy Nash contributed his first career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. The Wildcats shot over 50 percent from the field (52.1) for the second consecutive game, while limiting the Hoosiers to 35.3 percent shooting.
The win was NU's 33rd over the last two seasons, setting a new school record for victories in consecutive seasons.
Last Season: Northwestern and Iowa split last year's season series. Iowa posted a 56-51 win Feb. 7 in Iowa City before the Wildcats earned a 55-49 victory Feb. 28 in Evanston.
Iowa (8-16, 2-9 Big Ten) has lost four straight contests, most recently dropping a 68-58 decision at 13th-ranked Ohio State Sunday afternoon. Freshman Eric May led the Hawkeyes with 16 points.
Sophomore Matt Gatens leads Iowa with an average of 12.0 points per game. Aaron Fuller is the Hawkeyes' leading rebounder at 5.6 per game.
Todd Lickliter is in his third season at the helm at Iowa and his ninth season overall as a collegiate head coach.
Shurna Takes Charge
To say that John Shurna has elevated his game this season would be an understatement. After posting norms of 7.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per game as a freshman, Shurna has raised those averages to 17.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in 2009-10. He ranks fourth in the Big Ten in scoring and seventh in rebounding. The 10.4 point-per-game boost is the largest increase of any Big Ten player from last season to this season. He scored at least 20 points in five straight games from Dec. 19-Jan. 7. After twice scoring 29 points in a game this season, he established a new career high with 31 points at fifth-ranked Michigan State Jan. 30. Shurna averaged 30.0 points per game in his two contests against the Spartans this season.
By virtue of John's Shurna's 31-point effort at Michigan State Jan. 30, Northwestern joined Oklahoma and Lipscomb the only three schools this season to have three different players score at least 30 points in a game. Michael Thompson
scored 31 vs. Tennessee State Nov. 22 and Drew Crawford
tallied 35 against North Carolina A&T Dec. 13.
Spreading the Wealth
Northwestern is well known for sharing the basketball while protecting it from the opposition at the same time. That's the case again this season. The Wildcats lead the Big Ten and rank fourth in the nation with a 1.52 assist-to-turnover ratio, having handed out 389 assists while committing only 257 turnovers. In its Dec. 30 overtime contest against Illinois, Northwestern handed out 21 assists while turning the ball over just three times. The three turnovers tied a low in the Carmody era and none of them came over the final 35 minutes of play.
So Far, So Good
At 16-7, Northwestern is one win shy of matching the school record for regular season wins. The 1982-83 and 2008-09 squads each posted 17 regular-season victories. NU has never before had 16 wins through its first 23 games. The Wildcats have started 7-1 in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history. NU earned five wins in the month of November this season for the first time ever. Northwestern's nine-game win streak which was snapped Dec. 30 at Illinois was its longest since the 1993-94 squad opened its season with nine straight victories. The Wildcats' 10 wins prior to the new year tied the 2006-07 team for the school record for most victories before Jan. 1.
Sophomore center Luka Mirkovic has given the Wildcats key contributions as of late. Beginning with a double-double (11 pts., 11 reb.) in a win over Texas-Pan American Jan. 7, the native of Belgrade, Serbia, is averaging 9.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game over the last 10 contest. Mirkovic notched his third career double-double in a win over No. 6 Purdue Jan. 16 with a career-high 16 points and 10 boards. His 14 boards at Minnesota Jan. 26 matched a high for an individual during the Carmody era at Northwestern. In Big Ten play, Mirkovic ranks seventh in the conference with an average of 6.9 rebounds per game.
The Wildcats lead the Big Ten and are sixth nationally with an average 9.30 3-point makes per game, while also ranking fifth in the nation with 25.3 3-point attempts per game. Northwestern's 20 3-point makes and 47 3-point attempts in the win over North Carolina A&T Dec. 13 both established new Big Ten records. NU matched the attempts record with 47 against Illinois Dec. 30. The 20 makes bested the previous conference mark of 18 set by Ohio State against LSU Jan. 15, 2005, while the attempt total topped Michigan's total of 42 against Florida Gulf Coast Dec. 22, 2008. The previous school records were 15 makes vs. Arkansas State Dec. 3, 2007 and 36 tries at Ohio State Feb. 1, 2003.
Northwestern is well known for playing "team" offense and that's reflected in the statistics. The Wildcats have assisted on 73.8 percent of their field goals this season, posting 389 assists on their 527 made baskets. The percentage ranks first in the nation. In fact, NU has ranked in the top five nationally in assist percentage each of Bill Carmody's 10 seasons as head coach.
Success Under Carmody
Northwestern's next Big Ten win this season will be its sixth. In head coach Bill Carmody's first nine seasons in Evanston, the Wildcats recorded at least six Big Ten victories five times. The program totaled six or more conference wins just five times in the previous 31 years prior to Carmody's arrival. NU's seven-game increase in conference wins from the 2007-08 to the 2008-09 season is the biggest jump since Minnesota went from three league wins in 2003-04 to 10 the following campaign.
There is no questioning Michael Thompson's importance to the Wildcats. Not when you consider that he has played 38 or more minutes in 15 of Northwestern's first 22 contests this season. Thompson leads the Big Ten and is fourth nationally with an average of 37.7 minutes per game. Despite playing as many minutes as he does, the NU floor general has committed either one or no turnovers in 10 of the team's 23 games and sports a 2.55 assist-to-turnover ratio. In Big Ten play, his assist-to-turnover ratio goes up to 2.78 (50 assists, 18 turnovers in 419 minutes played). Northwestern is 13-2 when Thompson scores in double figures and is 3-5 when he doesn't.
Freshman Drew Crawford stepped into the Northwestern starting lineup from the opening game of the season and has paid immediate dividends. He had a memorable performance in a win over North Carolina A&T Dec. 13. His 35 points set a Northwestern freshman record, besting the 30 Billy McKinney had against Illinois Feb. 16, 1974. It is the second-highest point total by any freshman in the country this season. Crawford's eight 3-pointers in the contest were one shy of the school record of nine set by Craig Moore against Brown Nov. 22, 2008. He was named Big Ten Player of the Week for his efforts, the first NU freshman ever to earn the honor. Crawford leads all Big Ten freshmen with an average of 13.4 points per game in conference play. He is one of just four freshmen in BCS conferences who are averaging at least 11.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.
Player, School -Points, Rebounds, Assists
Alec Burks, Colorado - 16.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.7 apg
Xavier Henry, Kansas - 13.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.9 apg
Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati - 11.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.6 apg
Drew Crawford, NU - 11.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.8 apg
Nash Becomes All-Around Threat
Senior guard Jeremy Nash was always known as a defensive standout, but he has blossomed into a solid all-around player in his first season as a starter. He made the most of his second career start in NU's season-opening win against Northern Illinois Nov. 13, scoring 20 points. Nash had scored in double figures just four times in 77 games played over his first three seasons, but has done so 10 times this year. He posted a career-best 22-point performance in a win over Illinois Jan. 23. Entering this season, his career high was 12 points at Indiana Feb. 3, 2008. Nash was named to the all-tournament team for his efforts in the Chicago Invitational Challenge and leads the Wildcats and ranks seventh in the Big Ten with an average of 1.57 steals per game and sixth with a .814 free throw percentage (57-70). After averaging 3.1 points per game through his first three seasons, Nash is averaging 9.0 points per game in 2009-10.
Northwestern returns home Sunday as it hosts Minnesota. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m.