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    Wildcats Tip Off Big Ten Season at Second-Ranked Buckeyes

    JerShon Cobb is averaging 9.0 points per game off the bench over the last three contests.

    JerShon Cobb is averaging 9.0 points per game off the bench over the last three contests.

    Dec. 27, 2011

    Northwestern (10-2) at #2/2 Ohio State (12-1)
    Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011
    Value City Arena (19,049)
    Columbus, Ohio • 4:30 p.m. CT
    Big Ten Network (Tom Hart and Eddie Johnson)
    Audio: WGN 720 AM and (Dave Eanet and Bob Hildebrand)
    Satellite Radio: Sirius 92
    In-game Twitter updates: @NU_SportsLIVE
    Northwestern Game Notes (PDF)

    EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern tips off its 2011-12 Big Ten season Wednesday as it travels to second-ranked and defending conference champion Ohio State. Tip-off is set for 4:30 p.m. Central time.

    NU is looking to bounce back from an 87-79 loss at then-No. 23/21 Creighton. Junior forward Drew Crawford paced the Wildcats, connecting on 13 of 17 field goal attempts for a game-high 34 points. The point total was one shy of his career high. Senior forward John Shurna contributed 18 points, nine rebounds and six assists.

    Shurna (19.4 ppg) and Crawford (18.1 ppg) rank first and second, respectively, in the Big Ten in scoring. They join Ken Horton and Kyle Vinales of Central Connecticut State (Northeast Conference) as the only teammates in the nation to rank 1-2 in their league in scoring average.

    The Wildcats dropped their league-opener a year ago, falling 82-69 at 12th-ranked Purdue.

    Last Meeting: Top-ranked Ohio State escaped with a 67-61 overtime win over Northwestern March 11, 2011 in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis. John Shurna scored a game-high 23 points for the Wildcats.



    • The Buckeyes (12-1) are coming off a 69-40 home win over Miami (Ohio) last Thursday. William Buford had a team-high 18 points for Ohio State who held a 25-0 edge in points off turnovers, forcing 18 miscues while committing just five.
    • Sophomore Jared Sullinger leads the Buckeyes with an average of 16.2 points per game while Deshaun Thomas and Buford contribute 15.8 points per contest apiece.
    • Thad Matta is in his eighth season as the head coach at Ohio State (202-58) and his 12th season overall as a head coach (304-89).

    The Wildcats will have plenty of opportunities in their upcoming schedule to earn quality wins. Last Thursday's contest at Creighton began a stretch during which Northwestern plays five ranked teams over a seven-game span. A sixth team--Illinois--was ranked a week ago, but not in this week's polls.

    Northwestern faced Ohio State twice last season. Both times, the Buckeyes were ranked No. 1 in the nation and both times the Wildcats gave them all they could handle. Despite playing without leading scorer John Shurna Jan. 29 in Evanston, NU lost by just one, 58-57. The teams also met March 11 in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten tournament and Northwestern took Ohio State to overtime before falling 67-61.

    Junior forward Drew Crawford enters Wednesday's game with 968 career points. When he achieves the milestone, he'll be the 31st Wildcat to reach the mark. He'll also be the 17th Northwestern player to reach 1,000 career points in his first three seasons of action.

    Northwestern started its season 10-1 for the third time in school history, matching the 1982-83 and 2009-10 teams. It's the best start for the Wildcats since beginning the 1930-31 season with a school-record 12 straight wins. Northwestern set a school record this year with six victories in the month of November after going a perfect 5-0 in the month last season. NU has won 16 of its 17 games in the month of November over the last three seasons.

    The Wildcats have some big shoes to fill in the backcourt with the graduation of Michael Thompson. A four-year starter, Thompson completed his career at NU's all-time leader in games played, games started, minutes played and assists, while ranking third all-time in scoring. Freshman Dave Sobolewski has stepped in valiantly in his stead. Through 12 games, all starts, Sobolewski is averaging 7.8 points and 4.0 assists per game and has committed just 10 turnovers in 395 minutes of action to go along with 48 assists. He scored a collegiate-best 16 points in a Nov. 25 victory vs. Stony Brook and hit five 3-pointers in a win over Texas Southern Dec. 15. Sobolewski posted a career-high eight assists with no turnovers Dec. 22 at No. 23/21 Creighton.

    Nation's Assist-to-Turnover Ratio Leaders
    (min. 3.0 assists/game; through 12/25)

    1. Dave Sobolewski -- Northwestern, Fr. - 4.80
    2. Kendall Marshall -- North Carolina, So. - 4.09
    3. Roy Devyn Marble -- Iowa, So. - 4.00
    4. Randy Davis -- Ball State, Sr. - 3.84
    5. Andrew Rogers -- Maine, Sr. - 3.77

    Northwestern is well known for playing "team" offense and that's reflected in the statistics. The Wildcats lead the nation with a 1.85 assist-to-turnover ratio this season. Missouri ranks second at 1.75, while Ohio State is third at 1.69. NU ranked second in the nation to only Wisconsin with a 1.70 mark a year ago. NU ranks fourth in the nation with an avereage of just 9.8 turnovers per contest. The 'Cats finished third nationally with an average of only 9.9 turnovers per game during the 2010-11 season.

    We're not sure which one is Batman and which one is Robin, but senior John Shurna and junior Drew Crawford have already shown that they form a pretty formidable 1-2 punch. Shurna leads the Big Ten with an average of 19.4 points per game, while Crawford is the Big Ten's second-leading scorer with a norm of 18.1 points per contest.

    Nation's Top Scoring Duos
    (through games played 12/25/11)

    1. Central Connecticut State -- 42.7
    Ken Horton (22.5), Kyle Vinales (20.2)
    2. Weber State -- 39.4
    Damian Lillard (25.4), Scott Bamforth (14.0)
    3. Campbell -- 38.7
    Darren White (20.8), Eric Griffin (17.9)
    4. Vanderbilt -- 38.5
    John Jenkins (20.6), Jeffery Taylor (17.9)
    5. UC Santa Barbara -- 37.8
    Orlando Johnson (21.0), James Nunnally (16.8)
    6. Northwestern -- 37.5
    John Shurna (19.4), Drew Crawford (18.1)
    6. Maine--37.5
    Gerald McLemore (20.2), Justin Edwards (17.3)
    8. West Virginia -- 37.3
    Kevin Jones (21.0), Darryl Bryant (16.3)

    UP NEXT...
    Northwestern opens its Big Ten home season Jan. 1 as it takes on Penn State. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. with ESPNU providing live television coverage.


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