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    Wildcats Host Golden Gophers Saturday Seeking Resume-Building Win

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM John Shurna is averaging 25.6 points per game in the Wildcats' five games in the month of February.
    John Shurna is averaging 25.6 points per game in the Wildcats' five games in the month of February.

    Feb. 17, 2012

    Northwestern (15-10, 5-8 Big Ten) vs. Minnesota (17-9, 5-8 Big Ten)
    Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012
    Welsh-Ryan Arena (8,117)
    Evanston, Ill. • 6 p.m.
    Big Ten Network (Eric Collins and Shon Morris)
    Audio: 720 AM WGN and (Dave Eanet and Bob Hildebrand); 89.3 FM WNUR and
    In-game Twitter updates: @NU_SportsLIVE
    Northwestern Game Notes (PDF)

    BLOG: Shurna Prepares to Join Elite Company
    BLOG: Skip Myslenski's Game Preview

    EVANSTON, Ill. -- A pair of teams looking to bolster their postseason resumes square off Saturday as Northwestern faces Minnesota at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Tip time is set for 6 p.m.

    The squads enter the contest with matching 5-8 Big Ten records as part of a four-way tie for seventh place in the league standings.



    John Shurna comes into the matchup with 1,884 career points, just 16 shy of Billy McKinney (1974-77) for the top mark in NU history. Shurna has closed in on McKinney by scoring 59 points in his last two contests while averaging 25.6 points per game during Northwestern's five games in the month of February.

    The Wildcats are trying to bounce back from a tough 71-66 loss Wednesday night at No. 18 Indiana. Shurna paced NU with 29 points while Drew Crawford added 18. The contest was tied 63-63 with just over four minutes remaining before Indiana closed the game on an 8-3 run.

    Last Meeting: Northwestern missed its first 14 field goal attempts and dug itself a deficit it couldn't come back from in falling 75-52 to Minnesota in Minneapolis Jan. 22. John Shurna scored a game-high 21 points for the Wildcats.

    • The Golden Gophers (17-9, 5-8) have dropped their last two games, both at home, including a 78-68 decision to No. 6 Ohio State Tuesday night. Rodney Williams led Minnesota with 21 points.
    • Williams paces the team with averages of 11.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.
    • Minnesota leads the Big Ten with an average of 5.2 blocked shots per game and is second with a norm of 15.7 assists per game.
    • Tubby Smith is in his fifth season as the head coach at Minnesota where he has a 97-92 record. He is 484-207 in 21 seasons overall as a head coach.

    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 1,884 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 40 games of scoring 20 or more points. Shurna has scored at least 30 points in a game three times this season, the most by a Northwestern player since Eschmeyer posted at least 30 points five times during the 1997-98 campaign.

    Nation's Scoring Leaders from BCS Conferences (through 2/16)
    Name, Team - Avg.

    1. Terrell Stoglin, Maryland - 21.7
    2. Kevin Jones, West Virginia - 20.4
    3. John Shurna, Northwestern - 20.3
    4. John Jenkins, Vanderbilt - 19.8
    5. J'Covan Brown, Texas - 19.7

    Northwestern's offense has found a rhythm in the month of February. Over the last five games, the Wildcats are averaging 76.8 points per game while shooting 51.8 percent from the field, including 42.9 percent from 3-point range. Four players are averaging at least 13 points per game over the stretch: John Shurna (25.6), Drew Crawford (15.4), Reggie Hearn (13.8) and Dave Sobolewski (13.4).

    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 hasn't relinquished the spot since. The former walk-on scored a career-high 20 points Feb. 5 in a road win at Illinois. Hearn went 7-for-8 from the field in the contest, including making all six tries during his 16-point first-half performance. He followed it up by scoring 16 points in a win over Iowa Feb. 9 and again at Purdue Feb 12. For the season, he is averaging 7.5 points per game while shooting a team-best 52.6 percent from the field, including 42.9 percent from 3-point range. Hearn is being featured in this weekend's episode of "The Journey" on Big Ten Network.

    Northwestern enters tonight's game with a 5-8 Big Ten record, but isn't far away from being much better. The 'Cats have lost four of their league games by a total of 10 points, falling to Illinois at home by one, at Michigan and at home vs. Purdue by two apiece and at Indiana by five.

    In head coach Bill Carmody's first 11 seasons in Evanston, the Wildcats have recorded at least six Big Ten victories seven times. The program totaled six or more conference wins just five times in the previous 31 years prior to Carmody's arrival.

    From Dec. 22 through Jan. 22, Northwestern played seven games over an eight-game stretch against teams that were 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 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 2/16)
    Name, Team (Ht.) - 3FG

    1. John Shurna, Northwestern (6-9) - 67
    2. Josh Ritchart, UC Davis (6-9) - 58
    3. Robert Covington, Tennessee State (6-9) - 56
    4. Drew Windler, Samford (6-9) - 51

    Northwestern leads the Big Ten and ranks ninth nationally with an average of 8.8 3-point makes per game. The Wildcats are 10-2 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 1.53 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 10.2 turnovers per contest. Northwestern is assisting on 65.5 percent of its made field goals, the sixth-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 25 games, all starts, Sobolewski is averaging 8.9 points and 3.8 assists per game and has committed just 31 turnovers in 886 minutes of action to go along with 96 assists. He scored a collegiate-best 23 points in a victory over Iowa Feb. 9. 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 2/16)

    1. Kendall Marshall -- North Carolina, So. - 3.41
    2. Randy Davis -- Ball State, Sr. - 3.37
    3. Jay Threatt -- Delaware State, Sr. - 3.26
    4. Ceola Clark -- Western Illinois, Sr. - 3.16
    5. Sam Grooms -- Oklahoma, Jr. - 3.13
    6. Dave Sobolewski -- Northwestern, Fr. - 3.10

    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 20.3 points per game, while Crawford is the Big Ten's fourth-leading scorer with a norm of 16.8 points per contest.

    UP NEXT...
    Northwestern returns to action Tuesday as it hosts Michigan at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. Big Ten Network is providing live television coverage.


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