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    Wildcats Are Off to Face A Challenge

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Junior Davor Duvancic
    Junior Davor Duvancic

    Nov. 30, 2003

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    EVANSTON, Ill. - Northwestern and Florida State tip off the 2002 ACC/Big Ten Challenge Monday night at 7 p.m. EST (6 p.m. Chicago) in Tallahassee, and for the Wildcats the emphasis is on the word "Challenge."

    The 'Cats are entering the home stretch of a brutal early-season schedule, in which they are playing seven games in 15 days. Tonight's game is the first true road test of the bunch; NU has played at DePaul, but the Blue Demons' home court at Allstate Arena is a short drive from Northwestern's Evanston campus.

    "I would prefer to be home for this game," admitted head coach Bill Carmody. "However, this is a good opportunity to see how we can fare on the road against a high-caliber opponent in a hostile environment. We will be on the road eight times in the Big Ten this season, so this gives us a head start in that regard."

    Florida State will indeed provide a formidable task. The Seminoles are 4-0-winning by an average of nearly 30 points per game in those four contests-and entered the season with a recruiting class regarded by many as the best in the nation.

    "I liked Florida State last year in the games that I saw," said Carmody. "Now they have a vaunted recruiting class, so they should be a tremendous challenge tonight."

    Northwestern is still a young team, too; of the seven players who are seeing regular minutes, four are sophomores and just one is a senior. Even the lone junior on the team, Davor Duvancic, is getting regular minutes for the first time in his career.

    The 'Cats may have turned a corner of sorts Saturday against Northwestern State. After being flummoxed by the Demons in the first half-committing a staggering 14 turnovers-NU seemed to sort things out and played far better in the second half to take control of a game that had all the makings of a loss.

    Perhaps most pleasing to Carmody was the fact that the 'Cats gained control of the game without their senior leader, Jitim Young, on the floor; he sat for a long time in the second half due to foul trouble.

    Just maybe, the kids grew up a little bit.

    "I was pleased with how our guys played without Jitim," said Carmody. "Obviously I would prefer to have him out there for 40 minutes, but when he got into foul trouble we knew what we needed to do and we went about doing it."

    The pieces certainly seem to be in place to move Northwestern up the ladder in a Big Ten that seems loaded again this season. If you subscribe to quality over quantity, the Wildcats are your team-expect to see seven guys play tonight. Young provides the leadership, but the youngsters have all given indications that they are ready to step up and make good things happen. Right now, it is about finding a way to get all of them on the same page at the same time.

    Saturday's win was a start; tonight, the first major road test provides another great opportunity.

    Click here for more information on the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

    2003 ACC/Big Ten Challenge
    Dec. 1, 2003 * Tallahassee, Fla.
    7 p.m. EST (6 o'clock Chicago) * ESPN2
    RADIO: WGN 720 AM (Dave Eanet, play-by-play; Shon Morris, analyst)

    The Series
    Tonight's game represents the fourth meeting between the Wildcats and the Seminoles in men's basketball, with FSU holding a 2-1 lead. This is also the third meeting the teams have had in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but the first in Tallahassee (the teams met in Evanston in 1999 and 2001). The first meeting took place Dec. 23, 1972 in Dayton, Ohio; Florida State won that game, 91-73.

    Northwestern vs. The ACC
    The Wildcats enter tonight's game with a 3-16 record all-time against the schools that currently make up the Atlantic Coast Conference.
    Clemson 0-1
    Duke 0-7
    Florida State 1-2
    Georgia Tech 0-0
    Maryland 1-0
    North Carolina 1-3
    N.C. State 0-3
    Virginia 0-0
    Wake Forest 0-0

    Northwestern in the Challenge
    NU is 1-3 all-time in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge; after this season the Wildcats will be one of just four Big Ten teams to have participated in every Challenge to date (the others are Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin).
    12/1/1999 - Florida State 60, at NU 46
    11/28/2000 - at Clemson 57, NU 44
    11/28/01 - at NU 57, Florida State 50
    12/3/02 - at N.C. State 74, NU 49

    Some Team Notes
    * NU had 34 assists on its 40 baskets in the last two games, a .850 ratio. Against DePaul, the 'Cats had 15 assists on 17 buckets, its best ratio in a game since they had 17 assists on 19 baskets against Purdue on 2/20/02. For the season, NU has 65 assists on 84 baskets, a .774 ratio.

    * When Northwestern opened the season against Colorado Nov. 21, it marked the first time the Wildcats opened with a "major conference" opponent since 1975 (at Nebraska, of the Big 12). The last time NU hosted a major-conference team to start the season was 1970 (Kentucky, from the SEC).

    * NU shot 59.5 percent against Chicago State Nov. 23, just shy of the team high during the Bill Carmody era (59.6 against Buffalo last season). Of the NU players who took shots vs. CSU, only Mohamed Hachad had a percentage below .500; he was 3-of-7 (.429).

    * NU's win over Chicago State marked the 12th straight time the 'Cats won when outrebounding an opponent.

    * NU is 14-1 under Carmody when scoring 70 or more points in a game, as the 'Cats did against Chicago State.

    * NU has won nine games in a row when shooting a better percentage from the field than its opponent, the latest case being Saturday vs. Northwestern State.