Nov. 8, 2013
The Last Meeting
December 18, 2011
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern lifts the lid on its 2013-14 season and the Chris Collins era on Saturday as it hosts Eastern Illinois at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.
The contest marks the debut of Collins who previously served as an assistant coach at Duke for the last 13 seasons. Collins is the 24th head coach in school history.
The Wildcats defeated Lewis University 57-46 Wednesday in the team's lone exhibition contest. Drew Crawford led the team with 15 points while JerShon Cobb and Nathan Taphorn contributed 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Crawford headlines the returners for the 'Cats. The fifth-year senior will enter the regular season as the school's No. 10 all-time leading scorer with a 1,418 career points.
Also returning as starters for Northwestern are junior guard Dave Sobolewski and Alex Olah, a sophomore center. Cobb and Sanjay Lumpkin, both of whom started the game vs. Lewis, are also back in the fold after redshirting the 2012-13 campaign.
Series History: Northwestern leads 1-0.
Last Meeting: John Shurna tied a school record by hitting nine 3-pointers en route to scoring 32 points as Northwestern defeated Eastern Illinois 87-72 in Evanston Dec. 18, 2011.
SCOUTING EASTERN ILLINOIS
The Panthers are coming off an 11-21 season a year ago. Eastern Illinois is picked to finish fifth in the Ohio Valley Conference West Division this season.
Senior forward Sherman Blanford is the team's leading returning scorer and rebounder at 10.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game a year ago. He was named to the preseason All-OVC second team by College Sports Madness.
EIU posted a 73-64 exhibition win over Oakland City last Saturday. Josh Piper led the Panthers with 15 points while Blanford had a double-double with 12 points and 17 rebounds.
Jay Spoonhour is in his second season as the head coach at EIU. He was previously the head coach at UNLV, Wabash Valley College and Moberly Area Community College.
NORTHWESTERN IN SEASON OPENERS
The Wildcats have won their last five season- and home-openers, including notching a 79-49 victory over Texas Southern last year.
VETERAN DUO NAMED TEAM CAPTAINS
Redshirt senior Drew Crawford and junior Dave Sobolewski have been named the team's captains this season. Crawford also served in the role a year ago. He has appeared in 111 career games, making 110 starts, while Sobolewski has started each of the first 65 games of his career.
Northwestern suffered an excruciating string of injuries a year ago that left the squad short-handed for a large portion of the season. The list of returning Wildcats who were lost for the season at one point or another include Drew Crawford (shoulder), JerShon Cobb (violations of team policy), Sanjay Lumpkin (wrist) and Chier Ajou (knee).
Northwestern welcomes back two players who have earned postseason honors from the Big Ten. Drew Crawford was a consensus third-team all-league pick as a junior in 2011-12. He was also 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 in 2011-12. He was the fourth NU player to earn the honor over a seven-year span.
DISHING IT OUT
Junior Dave Sobolewski has proven to be one of the top assist men in the Big Ten through his first two seasons as a Wildcat. As a freshman in 2011-12, Sobolewski led the Big Ten and paced all nation's freshmen with a 2.63 assist-to-turnover ratio, while handing out 121 helpers, a mark that ranks 10th on NU's single-season assist list. A year ago, he handed out 127 assists for a mark that ranks eighth in the school's annals. As a comparison, Sobolewski has 248 assists through his first two seasons, while Michael Thompson, Northwestern's career leader in the category, had 242 combined assists as a freshman and sophomore.
MONTGOMERY EARNS SCHOLARSHIP
Senior guard James Montgomery III recently became an internet sensation when he was awarded a scholarship for the 2013-14. Video of the former walk-on being presented the scholarship by head coach Chris Collins and Montgomery sharing the new with his mother and sister has been viewed over 950,000 times on YouTube since it's debut on Oct. 22.
A CHALLENGING SLATE
The Wildcats will play one of their most challenging nonconference schedules in recent memory in 2013-14. Northwestern is set to take on five major conference opponents, including four away from Welsh-Ryan Arena. It is the first time since 2004-05 that NU will take on five major conference opponents in their nonconference schedule. The schedule includes contests against perennial powers Missouri and UCLA in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational as well as true road games at Stanford and NC State (Big Ten/ACC Challenge). The 'Cats also renew their series with local foe DePaul as the Blue Demons will make the short trip to Evanston.
Though the Wildcats stumbled to a 13-19 record a year ago, the program has still appeared in postseason play in four of the last five seasons. Northwestern's four straight NIT berths from 2009-12 marked the first time in school history that it has made postseason appearances in four straight seasons. Northwestern had never made back-to-back postseason appearances prior to the 2009-10 campaign.
Northwestern hits the road next Thursday as it travels to Stanford on Thursday. Tip time is set for 10 p.m. Central time with ESPNU providing live television coverage.
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