March 16, 2010
Northwestern at Rhode Island
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Ryan Center (7,657)
Kingston, R.I. 6 p.m. CT
TV: ESPNU (John Rooke and Tim O'Toole)
Streaming Video: ESPN360.com
Audio: WGN 720-AM and wgnradio.com (Dave Eanet and Bob Hildebrand)
Satellite Radio: Sirius 90 and XM 196
In-game Twitter updates: @NU_SportsLIVE
Northwestern Game Notes (PDF)
EVANSTON, Ill. -
Northwestern makes its second National Invitation Tournament appearance in as many years Wednesday as the Wildcats, seeded seventh in their quadrant, travel to Rhode Island, the No. 2 seed. It marks the first time in school history that NU has earned postseason appearances in consecutive seasons. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. Central time with ESPNU providing live television coverage.
The winner of Wednesday's contest moves on to face the winner of the game between third-seeded Wichita State and sixth-seeded Nevada.
The Wildcats fell in the quarterfinal round of last weekend's Big Ten tournament, dropping a 69-61 decision to second-seeded Purdue. NU was within one with 46 seconds remaining, but the Boilermakers were able to hold on for the win despite 16 points from John Shurna and 15 points and 10 rebounds by Drew Crawford. Northwestern advanced to the quarterfinals by virtue of its 73-58 first-round win over Indiana. Michael Thompson scored 13 of his team-high 16 points in the second half.
Series History: Rhode Island won the only previous matchup 91-87 Dec. 28, 1966, at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Scouting Rhode Island
Second-seeded Rhode Island (23-9) tied for fifth place in the Atlantic 10 Conference with a 9-7 record and fell to eventual champion Temple 57-44 in the semifinal round of the conference tournament.
Senior guard Keith Cothran leads URI with an average of 14.6 points per game, while senior forward Lamonte Ulmer contributes 11.8 points and a team-high 7.3 rebounds per contest.
Jim Baron is in his ninth season at the helm at URI where he has a 154-127 record. Including stints at St. Bonaventure and St. Francis (Pa.), he is 360-329 overall as a head coach.
Northwestern was well represented when the All-Big Ten honors were announced Monday, March 8. Sophomore forward John Shurna
was a consensus second-team choice, while junior guard Michael Thompson
was an honorable mention selection of both the coaches and the media. Freshman forward Drew Crawford
was an honorable mention pick by the media and was their choice as Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Crawford was a unanimous selection of the coaches to the all-freshman team and senior guard Jeremy Nash
was tabbed to the all-defensive team. Shurna was also the team's recipient of the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.
Northwestern is making its fifth NIT appearance and its second consecutive. The Wildcats have a 2-4 all-time record in NIT play.
3/17/83 - Notre Dame, Chicago, Ill., W, 71-57
3/21/83 - DePaul, Chicago, Ill., L, 65-63
3/16/94 - DePaul, Evanston, Ill., W, 69-68
3/21/94 - Xavier, Evanston, Ill., L, 83-79 (OT)
3/16/99 - DePaul, Chicago, Ill., L, 69-64
3/18/09 - Tulsa, Tulsa, Okla., L, 68-59
Quick Like a 'Cat, Not Slow Like a Snail
Remember that perception of Northwestern playing a slow-down style of play? Throw it out the window. The Wildcats ranked first in the Big Ten in conference play with an average of 68.7 points per game. It is the second time NU has led the league in scoring, dating back to 1939. Northwestern averaged 88.5 points per game to lead the Big Ten in scoring offense during the 1966-67 season.
Shurna Takes Charge
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 18.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game in 2009-10. He ranks third in the Big Ten in scoring and seventh in rebounding. The 11.0 point-per-game boost is the largest increase of any Big Ten player from last season to this season, is the seventh 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 and then matched it March 6 at Indiana. Shurna averaged 30.0 points per game in his two contests against Michigan State this season.
By virtue of John 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 1.52 assist-to-turnover ratio, having handed out 551 assists while committing only 362 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 20 wins, NU established the school record for victories in a season. The total eclipses the 1982-83 squad's total of 18. Northwestern's 37 combined wins over the last two seasons are also 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 fifth nationally with an average of 9.3 3-point makes and third with 26.0 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.
Defending the Perimeter
While Northwestern is very good at shooting from 3-point range, it is also quite proficient at limiting the opposition from behind the arc. The Wildcats rank first in the Big Ten in 3-point field goal percentage defense, holding their foes to 31.4 percent.
Northwestern is well known for playing "team" offense and that's reflected in the statistics. The Wildcats have assisted on 72 percent of their field goals this season, posting 551 assists on their 765 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 19 of Northwestern's first 33 contests this season. He leads the Big Ten and is fourth 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 2.44 assist-to-turnover ratio. In Big Ten play, his assist-to-turnover ratio goes up to 2.75 (77 assists, 28 turnovers in 691 minutes played). Northwestern is 17-7 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.
In addition to their record-setting win total, the Wildcats have set a number of new school statistical standards this season. The team's 308 3-point makes and 858 attempts have obliterated the previous marks of 255 makes set a year ago and 671 attempts in 2007-08. NU's 551 assists bested the 1993-94 squad's total of 516. The Wildcats' 131 blocked shots topped 1966-67 team's standard of 123 and the team's 2,287 points eclipsed the 1989-90 squad's total of 2,189 points scored.
The winner of Wednesday's contest advances to the take on the winner of the game between third-seeded Wichita State and sixth-seeded Nevada on a date and time to be determined.