Illinois (18-8, 5-7) at Northwestern (13-12, 4-8)
Sunday, Feb. 17, 6:30 p.m. - Evanston, Ill. - Welsh-Ryan Arena (8,117)
Big Ten Network (Announcers: Eric Collins, Mike Kelley)
Notes (from Northwestern sports information):
TAKING A HIT: Northwestern endured yet another season-ending injury when Jared Swopshire hurt his right knee at Iowa on Feb. 9 and then went arthroscopic surgery on Feb. 12 that ended his campaign. Swopshire joins a growing list of Wildcats who have been lost for the season including Drew Crawford (shoulder), Jershon Cobb (violations of team policy), Sanjay Lumpkin (wrist) and Chier Ajou (knee). Alex Olah also missed Thursday game at Ohio State due to an upper body injury suffered against Iowa.
(H)EARNING HIS KEEP: Senior guard Reggie Hearn has taken his game to another level during his senior season. He tallied a team-high 20 points on Jan. 17 in leading Northwestern to a convincing 68-54 victory at then-No. 23/22 Illinois. It was the second straight year that Hearn scored 20 points in a victory at Assembly Hall. The Fort Wayne native followed up the performance by scoring a game-high 22 points against Indiana on Jan. 20 and then a career-high 26 points in a win over Purdue Feb. 2. The former walk-on leads the Wildcats and ranks ninth in the Big Ten with a scoring average of 14.1 points per game and 14th with a .484 field goal percentage.
DOING IT ON DEFENSE: Northwestern has taken a step forward defensively so far this season. The Wildcats are limiting their opponents to an average of 62.4 points per game after allowing 68.2 points per contest a year ago. NU is also holding its foes to a .416 field goal percentage. The 'Cats have held 10 of their opponents to below 40 percent shooting in a game. During the 2011-12 season, Northwestern's opponents shot 45.2 percent from the field. Three times this year (Texas Southern, Fairleigh Dickinson, TCU), the Wildcats have limited the opposition to 14 first-half points, while holding three others (Brown, Minnesota, Penn State) also under 20 points in the opening stanza. The 48 points scored by Minnesota on Jan. 23 were the Gophers' lowest total of the season at the time by 18 points and were the fewest allowed by NU in a Big Ten game since Illinois had 48 on Feb. 18, 2007.
DISHING IT OUT: Sophomore Dave Sobolewski has been in a giving mood so far this season. His average of 4.1 assists per game ranks fourth in the Big Ten. The point guard handed out a career-best nine assists in Northwestern's season-opening win over Texas Southern Nov. 13 and then followed it up with eight helpers against Mississippi Valley State Nov. 15. A year ago, Sobolewski led the Big Ten and paced all nation's freshmen with a 2.63 assist-to-turnover ratio.
PROTECTING THE ROCK: NU is committing an average of just 10.6 turnovers per game, ranking eighth in the nation. Though the end result didn't go the way they would have liked, the Wildcats did a great job of taking care of the basketball against Maryland Nov. 27. Northwestern committed just four turnovers in the entire contest, the fewest since it committed three in an overtime game at Illinois on Dec. 30, 2009.
BOMBS AWAY!: Northwestern led the Big Ten and ranked fifth nationally in 2011-12 with an average of 9.0 3-point makes per game. The Wildcats are averaging 7.8 makes this season and are 9-2 when they make at least eight shots from behind the arch.
Dave Sobolewski: G, Soph., 6-1, 190 - 10.9 ppg, 4.1 apg
Reggie Hearn: G, Sr., 6-4, 210 - 14.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg
Tre Demps: G, RFr., 6-2, 200 - 7.4 ppg, 1.8 rpg
Kale Abrahamson: F, Fr., 6-7, 195 - 4.7 ppg, 1.0 rpg
Mike Turner: F, RFr., 6-8, 215 - 1.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg
Off the bench:
Alex Marcotullio: G, Sr., 6-3, 180 - 4.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg
Nikola Cerina: F, RJr., 6-9, 245 - 1.1 ppg, 1.2 rpg
Series record: Illinois leads 129-38
Series streak: Northwestern W2
Record @ Evanston: Illinois leads 59-24
Series streak @ Evanston: Illinois W1
Last meeting: Northwestern 68, No. 23 Illinois 54 (Jan. 17 @ Champaign)
Groce vs. Northwestern: 0-1
Sophomore guard Dave Sobolewski on Illinois…
"They're obviously really hot. They've won three in a row, playing really well. It's going to take a great effort on the defensive end to beat these guys.
On the injuries the team has dealt with…
"We've had to fight a lot of adversity this year. I think we've made it a priority to come together during this adversity and continue playing together and come out each night and just give it our all."
On the statement made by playing Ohio State close…
We're not going to back down no mattewr who we've got, no matter who is playing or who is hurt. We're going to continue playing through the final buzzer of the final game of the year.
Coach Bill Carmody's general thoughts on the matchup…
"We went down there and we made some shots early and got the lead and they missed some shots. We basically managed to keep the lead. They had lost two of four when we (first) played them and now they're playing really well and shooting the ball well. They're playing at a higher level."
Northwestern team info: