Feb. 14, 2006
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Feb. 15, 2006 - 7 p.m.
Northwestern (12-10, 4-6 Big Ten)
vs. No. 14 Illinois (20-4, 6-4 Big Ten)
Assembly Hall (16,618)
Radio--WGN 720 AM
(Dave Eanet, play-by-play; Bob Hildebrand analyst)
Television--ESPN+ Regional (WCIU in Chicago)
(Wayne Larrivee, play-by-play; Shon Morris, analyst)
EVANSTON, Ill. - Northwestern takes to the road Wednesday night when they take on No. 14 Illinois at 7 p.m. The 'Cats are coming off consecutive wins over No. 18 Iowa and IPFW while the Illini enter Wednesday's game looking to snap a two-game skid.
The 'Cats are riding high after a thrilling 51-48 win over No. 18 Iowa last Wednesday at home and a 73-49 win over IPFW on Saturday. In the win over Iowa, Vedran Vukusic carried the 'Cats on his back, scoring 15 of his game-high 26 points in the second half to give NU the victory, its fourth in five tries against Iowa.
No player in the Big Ten has meant more to his team than Vukusic who has accounted for 34 percent of NU's scoring this season. He has a chance Wednesday to add two more milestones to his resume. (see page 3 for details).
At his current scoring rate of 20.2 ppg, Vukusic, a candiate for Big Ten Player of the Year and All-America honors, is on pace to become the first Wildcat since Ray Ragelis in 1951 to lead the Big Ten in scoring.
Vukusic Looks to Make HistoryWith 1,498 points going into today, he needs just two to become the seventh player in 101 years of Wildcat basketball history to record 1,500 points and needs 24 to surpass Jitim Young for fifth place on the all-time scoring list. At his current scoring rate of 20.2 ppg, he is on pace to finish third among the all-time scoring greats in Wildcat history behind Billy McKinney (1,900 points; 1973-77) and Evan Eschmeyer (1,805 points; 1995-99).
Further, Vukusic can become the most prolific three-point shooter in Wildcat history Wednesday. He needs just two to tie and three break the all-time record of 203 makes set by Todd Leslie who played for the Wildcats from 1989-94.
Vedran Vukusic will shoot for not one, but two milestones Wednesday night at Illinois:
More on Vukusic
Vukusic is on pace to become the first Wildcat since Ray Ragelis in 1951 to lead the Big Ten in scoring.
Taking it a step further, Vukusic also would become the first European player in Big Ten history to lead the conference in scoring.
Vukusic has led the Wildcats in scoring 18 times this season, four away from tying the modern day record held by Evan Eschmeyer who led NU in scoring 22 times during the 1998-99 season.
In the 73-49 win over IPFW on Saturday, a school record eight different Wildcats connected on at least one three-point field goal. NU was red-hot from the start, hitting 7-of-11 (.636) in the first half. The Wildcats shot 73.9 percent (17-of-23) in the first half and 57.4 percent (27-of-47) overall, their best shooting performance of the season.
With an experienced group of seniors, Northwestern has shown the ability to keep its cool in tight games down the stretch this season. The Wildcats are 4-0 this year in games decided by three points or less and 2-0 in overtime games.
About the IlliniLast season, Illinois advanced to the NCAA Final Four, only to lose to North Carolina in the final, its first appearance in the NCAA Championship game. They recorded 37 wins in 2004-05, tying the NCAA record for most victories in a single season.
Dee Brown and James Augustine lead the Illini this season with 14.8 and 13.3 points, respectively. Brown is among the Big Ten leaders in three-point field goals made per game (2.4) and is second and fourth in assists (5.7) and steals (1.5) per game. Augustine ranks third in the league in rebounding (9.1) and second in field goal percentage (.615).
Illinois enters Wednesday's game ranked 14th in the Associated Press and 13th in the ESPN/USA TODAY Top 25 polls. The Illini tore through the nonconference portion of their schedule and won their first 15 games and sit in fourth place in the Big Ten with a 6-4 mark.
Wednesday is the 156th meeting in the all-time series where the Illini own a 121-34 lead overall. Northwestern last defeated Illinois in 2004, 70-60, at Welsh-Ryan Arena and last won in Champaign in 1999.
Illini Head Coach Bruce Weber
Bruce Weber is in his third year at Illinois and last season became the first coach in Big Ten history to win back-to-back outright Big Ten titles in his first two seasons. Weber made an immediate impact after being hired, leading his squad to its first Big Ten Championship in 52 years. Once again, he topped his previous performances in 2004-05 by leading Illinois to a 29-0 start and a 37-2 record, culminated by the Illini's march to the NCAA National Championship game against North Carolina. For his efforts, Weber swept all of the National Coach of the Year accolades.