March 8, 2011
Northwestern (17-12) vs. Minnesota (17-13)
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Conseco Fieldhouse (18,165)
Indianapolis, Ind. 1:30 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)
In-game Twitter updates: @NU_SportsLIVE
Northwestern Game Notes (PDF)
2011 Big Ten Tournament Bracket (PDF)
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Eighth-seeded Northwestern and ninth-seeded Minnesota meet up Thursday in the Big Ten tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Tip-off is set for 1:30 p.m. Central time.
It's the third time in four years that the teams square off in the opening round. It is the fifth meeting between the Wildcats and the Golden Gophers in the Big Ten tourney with NU winning the 2003 matchup in Chicago.
For the 'Cats, it is their second consecutive game against Minnesota. Northwestern defeated the Gophers 68-57 in its regular-season finale March 2 in Evanston. Alex Marcotullio and Michael Thompson led NU with 18 points apiece with Marcotullio's total establishing a career high. The Wildcats used an 18-4 run to rally from a 10-point second-half deficit.
Thompson is finishing his senior season strong. He has led Northwestern in scoring in nine of its last 10 games and is averaging 17.9 points per game over that span.
The winner of the contest faces top-seeded Ohio State in Friday's quarterfinal round. NU dropped a tight 58-57 decison to the top-ranked and undefeated Buckeyes during the only regular-season meeting between the teams Jan. 29 in Evanston.
The Golden Gophers (17-13) have dropped nine of their last 10, including most recently a 66-63 home loss to Penn State on Sunday. Blake Hoffarber led Minnesota with 17 points.
Hoffarber and Trevor Mbakwe each average 13.7 points per game while Mbakwe leads the Big Ten with a norm of 10.5 rebounds per contest.
Tubby Smith has a 80-52 record in four seasons at Minnesota and a 467-197 mark in 20 overall seasons as a head coach.
Shurna, Thompson Earn All-Big Ten Distinction
Northwestern placed a pair of individuals on the All-Big Ten third team when the honors were announced March 7. Senior guard Michael Thompson was a consensus selection, while junior forward John Shurna was a third-team pick of the coaches and was named honorable mention by the media. Shurna was a consensus second-team pick as a sophomore, while Thompson earned honorable mention a year ago. It is the second time in three years that NU has placed two players on the All-Big Ten teams. In 2009, Kevin Coble was selected to the second team, while Craig Moore was tabbed to the third team.
Setting the Standard
Northwestern's senior class has posted 62 wins over the last four seasons. With a victory over Illinois Feb. 5, this year's senior class earned its 59th career win to surpass last year's class as the winningest in Northwestern history. The 37 combined wins by the Wildcats over the last two seasons (2009-10 and 2010-11), as well as the previous two seasons (2008-09 and 2009-10) are a school record for back-to-back campaigns.
The Magic Number is 70
When the Wildcats tally at least 70 points this season, their record is 15-1. NU's record falls to 2-11 when it posts 69 points or less.
Success Under Carmody
NU earned its sixth Big Ten win of the season at Indiana Feb. 19. In head coach Bill Carmody's 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.
Climbing the Charts
Senior point guard Michael Thompson currently has 1,579 career points, ranking him fifth in Northwestern history. He is just four points shy of third place after starting the season in 21st place. The Chicago native surpassed Patrick Baldwin (1991-94) as NU's all-time assists leader Jan. 15 at Michigan State. Thompson also ranks second all-time at Northwestern with 257 3-point field goals.
It's a rare thing when Michael Thompson isn't on the court for Northwestern. He has started all 124 games during his career as a Wildcat and surpassed Jitim Young (2001-04) Feb. 9 for the most starts in school history. He passed Craig Moore (2006-09) for the most games played in school history vs. Penn State Feb. 24. On Jan. 12 at Iowa, Thompson became the school's all-time leader in minutes played, surpassing Jim Stack (1979-83). He eclipsed 4,000 minutes for his career Jan. 20 vs. SIU Edwardsville. Last season, Thompson ranked fourth in the nation with an average of 37.7 minutes played per game. His average of 36.6 minutes per game this season ranks second in the Big Ten to only Penn State's Talor Battle.
Longest Active String of Consecutive Starts
Through games of 3/6/11
Source: STATS, Inc.
1. Dairese Gary, New Mexico - 128
2. Tyler Newbold, Utah State - 126
3. Kevin Anderson, Richmond - 125
4. Michael Thompson, Northwestern - 124
Northwestern has long been known for its accurate 3-point shooting. The Wildcats sport a .381 3-point percentage this season. NU is also fourth nationally with an average of 9.2 made 3-pointers per game. Individually, John Shurna is 11th in the nation with a .474 3-point percentage. Shurna's 10-for-11 performance overall from the field in a win over Long Island Dec. 13 ranks as a tie for the second-best effort in program history.
Northwestern is well known for playing "team" offense and that's reflected in the statistics. The Wildcats lead the Big Ten and rank 11th in the nation with an average of 16.8 assists per game. NU's assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.65 (488 assists, 295 turnovers) is the nation's second-best mark, trailing only Wisconsin. The 'Cats are also fifth nationally with an average of only 10.2 turnovers per game.
Coming Up Big Off the Bench
When Davide Curletti scored a career-high 18 points at Wisconsin Feb. 27, it marked the most points scored by a Northwestern player off the bench since Dec. 1, 2007 when Jason Okrzesik scored 18 vs. Savannah State. It didn't take long for a Wildcat to match that total. Alex Marcotullio tallied a career-best 18 points off the bench in Northwestern's very next game vs. Minnesota March 2.
A year after shattering the school season record with 317 3-point makes, the 'Cats have followed suit this season. NU leads the Big Ten and is fourth nationally with an average of 9.2 3-point makes per game. Michael Thompson ranks third among all Big Ten players with an average of 2.62 triples per contest.
Big Ten, Most 3-point field goals in conference games - All-time
Northwestern, 2009-10 - 170
Northwestern, 2010-11 - 162
Michigan, 2008-09 - 151
Purdue, 2007-08 - 151
Wisconsin, 2009-10 - 147
When Northwestern's Michael Thompson hit his 250th career 3-pointer Feb. 27 at Wisconsin, he became just the fifth Big Ten player over the last 15 seasons to compile at least 500 assists and 250 3-point field goals in their careers. He became the first Wildcat to eclipse 500 career assists Feb. 24 vs. Penn State. All four of Thompson's season assist totals rank among the top 10 marks in program history.
500+ assists, 250+ 3-point field goals
Big Ten players since 1996-97
Source: STATS, Inc.
Talor Battle, Penn State (2007-present)
Dee Brown, Illinois (2002-06)
Jeff Horner, Iowa (2002-06)
Drew Neitzel, Michigan State (2004-08)
Michael Thompson, Northwestern (2007-present)
They're Called Free Throws for a Reason
Michael Thompson enters the Big Ten tournament having connected on his last 20 free throw attempts. The Northwestern record for consecutive makes from the charity stripe is 27 achieved by Pete Boesen in 1976. Thompson hit all 11 of his tries from the line Feb. 19 at Indiana, a tie for the third-best single-game effort in school history. He ranked tied for eighth in Big Ten play with a .842 free throw percentage (48-57).
Stepping Up and Knocking Them Down
The Wildcats have done some of their best work from the charity stripe this season against Minnesota. NU has connected on 30 of its 34 free throw attempts against the Golden Gophers. Northwestern went 10-for-11 from the line Jan. 26 in Minneapolis before making 20 of its 23 tries March 2 in Evanston.
A year after leading the Big Ten in scoring during league play, Northwestern is putting a number of points on the board again this year. The 'Cats currently rank third in the Big Ten with an average of 71.9 points per game. NU has scored over 90 points in a game six times this season, the most since the 1970-71 campaign when it also reached the mark six times. Northwestern had scored 90 points in a game just twice in Bill Carmody's first 10 seasons as head coach.
Scoring Spree, Part 2
Northwestern's 93-81 victory over Indiana Jan. 9 marked the team's most points in a Big Ten game since a 97-93 overtime win over No. 8 Michigan on March 12, 1994. Coupled with a 90-71 victory at Iowa Jan. 12, it marked NU's first time scoring at least 90 points in consecutive Big Ten games since Jan. 3 and 10, 1970 vs. Michigan (L, 96-92) and at Michigan State (L, 98-93), respectively. The Wildcats' 98 points against SIU Edwardsville Jan. 20 were their most since a 100-89 win over Wisconsin March 6, 1993.
Crawford Earns Academic All-District Honors
Sophomore Drew Crawford was recognized for his efforts both on the court and in the classroom when he was named to the Capital One Academic All-District V team as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). Crawford sports a 3.58 grade point average. His major is undeclared.
Home Sweet Home
The Wildcats finished the regular season 12-4 at home with three of the losses coming to teams that were nationally ranked at the time (Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State). After setting a program best with 13 home wins in 2008-09, the Wildcats established a new mark with 15 victories at Welsh-Ryan Arena in 2009-10. Northwestern has a 37-3 home record against unranked opponents over the last three seasons.
Freshman JerShon Cobb has gotten his NU career off to a good start. The Georgia native has started all 25 of the games that he has appeared in. He scored in double figures in four of his first five Big Ten games, including tallying a collegiate-best 18 points at No. 20 Illinois Jan. 6. Cobb ranks sixth among all conference freshmen with an average of 8.0 points per game. In league play, that average goes up to 8.8 points per contest, also the fifth-best mark of any Big Ten frosh.
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