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    Wildcats Host Fighting Illini Sunday Seeking Season Sweep

    Tre Demps scored a career-high 16 points in Thursday's game at Ohio State.

    Tre Demps scored a career-high 16 points in Thursday's game at Ohio State.

    Feb. 16, 2013

    Illinois Game Previews: Carmody | Sobolewski | Hearn | Demps

     Northwestern (13-12, 4-8) vs. Illinois (18-8, 5-7)
     Date  Sunday, Feb. 17 | 6:30 p.m.
     Location  Welsh-Ryan Arena  | Evanston, Ill.
     Watch Live  Big Ten Network (Eric Collins and Mike Kelley)
     Listen  720 AM WGN and (Dave Eanet and Jitim Young)
     Live Stats  Gametracker
     Social Media  @NUMensBball   |  Facebook
     Tickets  Contest is sold out
     Game Notes  Northwestern  |  Illinois

    Skip Myslenski's Preview

    The Last Meeting
    No. 23/22 Illinois54
    January 17, 2013
    Champaign, Ill.
    Wildcats Lead Throughout in 68-54 Win at No. 23/22 Illinois
    Reggie Hearn scored a team-high 20 points and Northwestern led wire to wire in rolling to a 68-54 victory over No. 23/22 Illinois at Assembly Hall Thursday evening.

    EVANSTON, Ill.-- Northwestern seeks a sweep of its season series with Illinois on Sunday as the teams square off at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m.

    Big Ten Network is providing television coverage and the game can also be heard on 720 AM WGN and at

    After just wrapping up a stretch during which they played four out of five games on the road, Sunday's contest opens a span during which the 'Cats play four of their next five matchups at home.

    A depleted NU lineup that had just seven scholarship players available came up just short at No. 13/14 Ohio State on Thursday. The Wildcats led through the majority of the contest, but a late 12-0 run by the Buckeyes allowed the hosts to escape. Tre Demps led four Northwestern players in double figures with 16 points, while fellow freshmen Kale Abrahamson and Mike Turner added 13 points and eight assists, respectively.

    First Meeting:Reggie Hearn scored a team-high 20 points and Northwestern led wire to wire in rolling to a 68-54 victory over No. 23/22 Illinois at Assembly Hall Jan. 17.

    • The Fighting Illini (18-8, 5-7) has won its last three contests, including posting a 79-59 home win over Purdue on Wednesday. D.J. Richardson led Illinois with 18 points.
    • Brandon Paul leads the team with an average of 16.7 points per game, while Richardson contributes 12.5 per contest.
    • John Groce is in his first season as head coach at Illinois. He has a 103-64 career record in five seasons overall as a head coach.

    Watch Sobolewski preview the Illinois game

    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 Fort Wayne native followed up the performance by scoring a game-high 22 points against Indiana on Jan. 20 and then a career-high 26 points in a win over Purdue Feb. 2. The former walk-on leads the Wildcats and ranks ninth in the Big Ten with a scoring average of 14.1 points per game and 14th with a .484 field goal percentage.

    Northwestern endured yet another season-ending injury when Jared Swopshire hurt his right knee at Iowa on Feb. 9 and then went arthroscopic surgery on Feb. 12 that ended his campaign. Swopshire joins a growing list of Wildcats who have been lost for the season including Drew Crawford (shoulder), JerShon Cobb (violations of team policy), Sanjay Lumpkin (wrist) and Chier Ajou (knee). Alex Olah also missed Thursday game at Ohio State due to an upper body injury suffered against Iowa.

    Northwestern has taken a step forward defensively so far this season. The Wildcats are limiting their opponents to an average of 62.4 points per game after allowing 68.2 points per contest a year ago. NU is also holding its foes to a .416 field goal percentage. The 'Cats have held 10 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.

    Sophomore Dave Sobolewski has been in a giving mood so far this season. His average of 4.1 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.

    It's not only the guards in the Northwestern lineup who can set up their teammates. Mike Turner's eight assists at Ohio State Feb. 14 are tied for the fifth most in the nation this season by any player 6'8" or taller. Also, Alex Olah leads all players in the nation 7'0" or taller with an average of 2.1 assists per game.

    Div I, Most Assists per Game by Players 7'0" or Taller - (Minimum 20 Games)
    Player, Team - APG (Height)
    Alex Olah, Northwestern - 2.1 (7-0)
    Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga - 1.7 (7-0)
    Dragan Sekelja, Fla. Atlantic - 1.2 (7-0)
    Alec Brown, Green Bay - 1.2 (7-1)
    Cody Zeller, Indiana - 1.2 (7-0)

    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 sixth in the nation so far this year with a 1.44 ratio (380 assists, 264 turnovers). NU ranked second nationally to only Wisconsin with a 1.70 mark in 2010-11. Northwestern ranks second in the country with a .702 assist percentage.

    NU is committing an average of just 10.6 turnovers per game, ranking eighth in the nation. 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.

    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 7.8 makes this season and are 9-2 when they make at least eight shots from behind the arch.

    UP NEXT...
    Northwestern returns to action Wednesday when it hosts Wisconsin. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.


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