(19) Wisconsin (18-8) at Northwestern (13-13)
Wednesday, February 20, 9 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, College Basketball Senior Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Welsh-Ryan Arena (8,117) -- Evanston, Illinois.
Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: UW 14-2, NU 8-8. Away Record: UW
3-5, NU 3-5. Neutral Record: UW 1-1, NU 2-0. Conference Record: UW 9-4, NU
4-9. Series Record: Wisconsin leads, 110-61.
GAME NOTES: Hoping to keep pace in the race for the Big Ten Conference
regular-season title, the 19th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers have made the trek to
Welsh-Ryan Arena for Wednesday's clash with the Northwestern Wildcats.
Wisconsin whipped visiting Ohio State on Sunday, 71-49, to improve to 18-8
overall and 9-4 in conference, the latter of which has it tied with Michigan
for third place. The Badgers, who have won three of their last four games, are
a stellar 14-2 at home this season, but have lost three of their last four
Northwestern is an even 13-13 on the year, but the team has won only four of
its 13 league bouts. It is currently mired in a three-game losing streak, with
the most recent setback coming in a 62-41 decision at home to Illinois on
Sunday. That loss dropped the Wildcats to 8-8 in Evanston this season.
Wisconsin owns a significant 110-61 advantage in the all-time series with
Northwestern, and the Badgers have won the last five meetings, and 10 of the
last 11 overall.
Wisconsin plays some of the stingiest defense around, the team yielding a
league-low 56.2 ppg. Foes are shooting just 39.8 percent from the field, which
includes a dismal 29.9 percent effort from 3-point range, both of which rank
the Badgers in the upper half of the Big Ten standings. Offensively, UW does
enough to keep it on the plus-side of the ledger, netting 67 ppg in hitting
42.6 percent of its field goal attempts, with 34.3 percent of its long-range
tries finding the bottom of the net. The Badgers also own favorable margins in
both rebounding (+4.6) and turnovers (+2.2). Jared Berggren (11.8 ppg, 6.9
rpg, 51 blocks) leads the team up front, while Ben Brust (11.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg,
2.6 apg) is the best player in the backcourt. Ryan Evans (10.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg)
lends support, as does a quartet of players who average between 4.5 and 9.2
ppg. Berggren and Brust both hit for 15 points, the latter also grabbing 11
rebounds, Sam Dekker tacked on 13 points off the bench and Traevon Jackson
chipped in with 10 points and four assist, all of which the Badgers used to
throttle the visiting Ohio State Buckeyes over the weekend. Wisconsin wound up
shooting 52.7 percent from the floor, compared to only 37.5 percent for OSU,
and the Badgers drained seven 3-pointers while the Buckeyes hit just three.
Northwestern has earned its keep this season by playing solid defense as well,
its foes generating just 62.3 ppg behind typical shooting efforts of .417
overall, .334 from 3-point range, and .641 from the free throw line. At the
other end, the Wildcats are netting 62.6 ppg, and make their shots at a
similar conversion rate (.411, .347, .665). They are getting beaten on the
glass by more than five caroms per contest, but they are +1.3 in turnover
differential, committing only 10.7 giveaways per outing. Northwestern's two
active double-digit scorers are Reggie Hearn (14.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and Dave
Sobolewski (10.5 ppg, 4.0 apg), and it was the former who served as the team's
only productive offensive performer in the recent loss to Illinois, as Hearn
tallied 11 points despite going just 3-of-11 from the floor. The 'Cats knocked
down a horrific 25 percent of their field goal attempts, converting a paltry
5-of-27 (.185) long-range shots along the way. Not surprising, NU suffered a
significant deficit in points in the paint (28-14) as the team has trouble
matching up against bigger, more athletic opponents.
Wisconsin is on a roll right now, and even though it is forced to play this
game in enemy territory, expecting anything other than a win for the Badgers
would be misguided.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wisconsin 66, Northwestern 58
02/20 10:32:01 ET
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