March 2, 2010
Chicago State at Northwestern
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Welsh-Ryan Arena (8,117)
Evanston, Ill. 7 p.m.
Streaming Video: BigTenNetwork.com (Rob Coons and Mark Carman)
Audio: WIND-AM 560 and wgnradio.com (Dave Eanet and David Kaplan)
In-game Twitter updates: @NU_SportsLIVE
Northwestern Game Notes (PDF)
EVANSTON, Ill. -
Northwestern plays its final home game of the 2009-10 regular season Wednesday as it takes on nonconference foe Chicago State. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at Welsh-Ryan Arena. BigTenNetwork.com is video streaming the contest.
Jeremy Nash and Matt Steger will be honored in pregame ceremonies on Senior Night. The duo enters the contest one win shy of tying the 2005 class for the school record for most career wins (57). NU has already established a mark for most victories in consecutive campaigns with 35 and a win Wednesday would establish a new single-season record (19).
Northwestern and Chicago State have three common opponents this season. NU defeated Iowa State 67-65, while Chicago State lost to the Cyclones 72-50. The Wildcats downed Northern Illinois 77-55 and the Cougars fell to the Huskies 99-93. Northwestern posted a 53-44 victory over Texas-Pan American, while CSU fell to the Broncs 63-42 before defeating them 76-69.
Series History: Northwestern has won each of its eight all-time meetings with Chicago State. A year ago, the Wildcats got 19 points from Craig Moore and 18 from John Shurna in defeating the Cougars 75-63.
Scouting Chicago State
Shurna Takes Charge
Chicago State (8-21, 3-8 Great West) is coming off a close 77-73 home loss to South Dakota last Saturday. Christian Wall had 20 points and six assists, while Carl Montgomery had 17 points and 13 rebounds.
Montgomery leads the team with averages of 13.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, while Wall contributes 12.7 points per contest.
Benjy Taylor is in his third season as the head coach at Chicago State. The Cougars are in their first season competing as a member of the Great West Conference after previously competing as an independent.
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 18.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game in 2009-10. He ranks third in the Big Ten in scoring and 11th in rebounding. The 10.9 point-per-game boost is the largest increase of any Big Ten player from last season to this season, is the eighth largest nationally and is the second-best of any player in a BCS conference. He scored at least 20 points in five straight games from Dec. 19-Jan. 7 and 12 times overall this season. 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 1.55 assist-to-turnover ratio, having handed out 480 assists while committing only 310 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
With 18 wins this season, NU established the school record for regular season victories and has tied the 1982-83 squad's overall win total. Northwestern's 35 combined wins over the last two seasons are a school record. 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.
The Wildcats lead the Big Ten and are fourth nationally with an average of 9.2 3-point makes and fifth with 25.2 3-point attempts per game. NU'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. The 20 makes are tied for the most by any team in the nation this season. 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 71.6 percent of their field goals this season, posting 480 assists on their 670 made baskets. The percentage ranks second 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
NU has reached at least six Big Ten wins for the sixth time in Bill Carmody's first 10 seasons as head coach. 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 NU. Not when you consider that he has played 38 or more minutes in 18 of Northwestern's first 28 contests this season. He leads the Big Ten and is third 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 14 times this season and sports a 2.58 assist-to-turnover ratio. In Big Ten play, his assist-to-turnover ratio goes up to 2.78 (67 assists, 26 turnovers in 610 minutes played). Northwestern is 15-4 when Thompson scores in double figures and is 3-6 when he doesn't. He became the 29th member of NU's 1,000-point club Feb. 17 vs. Penn State.
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 is averaging 10.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.
Northwestern has proven this season that it isn't over until it's over. The Wildcats first displayed their comeback potential Nov. 22 against Tennessee State. Trailing by eight with 5:26 remaining, NU ended the game on a 16-1 run to earn a 69-62 win. In a Jan. 10 contest at Michigan, Northwestern found itself facing a 17-point first-half deficit. However, Drew Crawford sparked the comeback as the 'Cats rallied for a 68-62 victory. Minnesota was victim to NU's heroics Feb. 14. The Gophers led by 13 with eight minutes remaining before the Wildcats used a 20-4 run to help force overtime before eventually winning 77-74. Northwestern nearly turned the trick again at Wisconsin Feb. 21. Trailing by 14 at the half, the Wildcats rallied back to within a point before coming up just short.
Northwestern closes out its 2009-10 regular season Saturday as it travels to Indiana. Tip-off is set for 11 a.m. Central time.