Feb. 27, 2013
Skip Myslenski's Preview
The Last Meeting
February 14, 2013
EVANSTON, Ill.-- Northwestern plays its penultimate home game of the 2012-13 season on Thursday as it hosts No. 16/15 Ohio State at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.
The contest is being televised by ESPN and can also be seen on WatchESPN as well as heard on AM 560 and wgnradio.com
In each of the last three meetings between the teams in Evanston, the decisive points have been scored in the final four seconds of regulation. The three contests were decided by a total of six points.
NU got a 3-pointer from John Shurna with 3.3 seconds left to post a 72-69 win Feb. 18 2009. On Jan. 29, 2011, Jared Sullinger hit the second of two free throw attempts with 3.5 seconds to go giving the top-ranked Buckeyes a 58-57 victory. A year ago on Feb. 29, Sullinger hit a field goal with 3.1 seconds remaining to give Ohio State a 75-73 win.
First meeting: Northwestern led throughout the majority of the contest, but Ohio State put together a late 12-0 run to pull out a 69-59 victory Feb. 14 in Columbus. The Wildcats connected on 11 3-pointers in the contest and Tre Demps scored 16 points while Mike Turner handed out eight assists.
SCOUTING OHIO STATE
The Buckeyes (20-7, 10-5) are coming off a 68-60 home win over Michigan State on Sunday. Aaron Craft led Ohio State with 21 points and six assists.
Deshaun Thomas leads the Big Ten with an average of 19.9 points per game, while pacing the team with 6.1 rebounds per contest. OSU is 15-2 at home this season but just 3-5 in true road games.
Thad Matta is in his ninth season as head coach at Ohio State where he has a 241-72 record. He has a 343-103 career record in 13 seasons overall as a head coach.
(H)EARNING HIS KEEP
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 11th in the Big Ten with a scoring average of 13.7 points per game and leads the team with a .454 field goal percentage.
TAKING A HIT
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.
DOING IT ON DEFENSE
Northwestern has taken a step forward defensively so far this season. The Wildcats are limiting their opponents to an average of 63.0 points per game after allowing 68.2 points per contest a year ago. NU is also holding its foes to a .422 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.
DISHING IT OUT
Sophomore Dave Sobolewski has been in a giving mood so far this season. His average of 3.9 assists per game ranks fifth 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.
THE BIGS CAN DISH IT TOO
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 1.9 assists per game.
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 11th in the nation so far this year with a 1.39 ratio (412 assists, 296 turnovers). NU ranked second nationally to only Wisconsin with a 1.70 mark in 2010-11. Northwestern ranks first in the country with a .705 assist percentage.
PROTECTING THE ROCK
NU is committing an average of just 10.6 turnovers per game, ranking seventh 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 7.6 makes this season and are 9-2 when they make at least eight shots from behind the arch.
Northwestern returns to action at 6 p.m. next Thursday when it hosts Penn State at Welsh-Ryan Arena. It will be Senior Night with Reggie Hearn, Alex Marcotullio and Jared Swopshire being honored pregame.
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