March 6, 2012
#7 Northwestern (18-12) vs. #10 Minnesota (18-13)
Thursday, March 8, 2012
Bankers Life Fieldhouse (18,165)
Indianapolis, Ind. 4:30 p.m. CT
TV: ESPN2 (Dave O'Brien and Dan Dakich)
Streaming Video: ESPN3.com
Audio: WGN 720 AM and wgnradio.com (Dave Eanet and Bob Hildebrand); WNUR 89.3 FM and sports.wnur.org
In-game Twitter updates: @NU_SportsLIVE
Northwestern Game Notes (PDF)
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Seventh-seeded Northwestern opens play at the 2012 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament on Thursday as it squares off against 10th-seeded Minnesota. Tip-off is set for 4:30 p.m. Central time from Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
The winner advances to take on Michigan, the No. 2 seed, in Friday's quarterfinal round. Northwestern is 5-1 at the Big Ten tournament when playing as the higher seeded team.
This is the fourth time in the last five years that the Wildcats and Golden Gophers are squaring off in an opening-round matchup. NU posted a 75-65 win a year ago behind a Big Ten tournament record 35 points from Michael Thompson
Northwestern is coming off a 70-66 win at Iowa in its regular-season finale last Saturday. The Wildcats rallied from a 15-point deficit to take a 42-35 lead at the break and then held on the rest of the way. Drew Crawford paced NU with 18 points, seven rebounds and five steals. JerShon Cobb added a season-high 13 points.
Regular Season Series: The teams split their regular-season series with each squad winning on its home court. The Golden Gophers posted a 75-52 victory Jan. 22 in Minneapolis before the Wildcats earned a 64-53 win Feb. 18 in Evanston.
The Golden Gophers (18-13, 6-12 Big Ten) finished tied with Illinois for ninth place in the conference standings. Minnesota closed out its regular season with an 81-69 home win over Nebraska, snapping a six-game losing streak in the process.
Rodney Williams paces the team with averages of 10.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per contest and a .556 field goal percentage.
Minnesota leads the Big Ten with an average of 5.1 blocked shots per game.
Tubby Smith is in his second season as the head coach at Minnesota where he has a 98-96 record. He is 485-211 in 21 overall seasons as a head coach.
TRIO OF 'CATS EARN BIG TEN HONORS
Three Northwestern players were recognized when the Big Ten's postseason honors were announced March 5. Senior forward John Shurna was a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection. He is the first Wildcat to be named to the first team since Jitim Young in 2004. Shurna had previously earned second-team honors as a sophomore and was a third-team pick of the coaches a year ago. Junior forward Drew Crawford was a consensus third-team all-league pick. Crawford was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick in 2010. In addition, guard Dave Sobolewski earned a Big Ten All-Freshman Team selection. He is the fourth NU player to earn the honor in the last seven seasons.
SHURNA CLAIMS BIG TEN SCORING TITLE
John Shurna finished conference play with a scoring average of 20.0 points per game to claim the Big Ten scoring crown. He edged Penn State's Tim Frazier who finished second at 19.6 points per game. Northwestern had not had an individual lead the Big Ten in scoring since Ray Ragelis in 1951. Two years ago, Shurna finished merely one point shy of surpassing Ohio State's Evan Turner for the scoring title.
ALONE AT THE TOP
Northwestern's scoring record of 1,900 career points had stood since 1977 when Billy McKinney completed his collegiate eligibility. That was until Feb. 18 when John Shurna hit a 3-pointer with 10:48 remaining in the second half of a home game against Minnesota, giving him 1,902 for his career. Shurna scored a school single-season record 619 points as a sophomore, 531 points last season as a junior and 593 so far this year. He is the active Big Ten career leader with 42 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. His scoring average of 19.8 points per game leads the Big Ten and ranks 20th nationally.
The Wildcats defeated Iowa March 3 despite trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half. It is the largest deficit NU has overcome to win a game since rallying back from 17 down in a 68-62 victory at Michigan Jan. 10, 2010. Northwestern also rallied from a 14-point deficit to defeat LSU Nov. 17.
Northwestern is well known for playing "team" offense and that's reflected in the statistics. The Wildcats rank fourth in the nation with a 1.52 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 64.3 percent of its made field goals, the seventh-highest percentage nationally.
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