GAME NOTES: A couple of midwestern programs shoot for their eighth wins of the season tonight, as the Northwestern Wildcats entertain the DePaul Blue Demons in non-conference action at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
DePaul recently ripped through a five-game homestand at Allstate Arena to kick off the month of December, and celebrated with four wins during the stretch. However, last Sunday the team was taken down by Illinois State on the road in a 69-64 final, the first of four straight outings away from home for the Blue Demons.
Since losing three in a row to the likes of Missouri, UCLA and NC State, all away from home, the Wildcats have responded with three straight victories, albeit again lesser opponents. The team scored a 16-point victory over Western Michigan, followed by a 22-point decision against Mississippi Valley State, and then capped the run with a six-point triumph versus Brown three days before Christmas.
Northwestern, which is in the midst of a five-game homestand, trails in the all-time series with the Blue Demons by a 19-9 margin.
DePaul led by as many as seven points in the second half against Illinois State last Sunday, but the Blue Demons saw a 15-point swing in the period and eventually suffered the five-point road loss. Billy Garrett and Brandon Young tried to give the visitors a fighting chance with 18 and 17 points, respectively, followed by reserve Durrell McDonald with 10 points, but that left the rest of the squad to combine for only 19 points as the group shot just 41.4 percent from the field and turned the ball over 16 times.
Although he failed to score in double figures the last time out, Cleveland Melvin is still the leading scorer overall for the Blue Demons with 16.5 ppg, accounting for 7.2 rpg to lead the way in that department for DePaul as well. Young (15.3 ppg), who is shooting just 25.0 percent beyond the arc but still 52.6 percent from the floor, is first on the squad with 47 assists but is followed closely by Garrett, who has 43 dishes to go along with his 10.8 ppg even though he has started just seven of the team's 12 games.
Northwestern shot a dismal 35.6 percent from the field, including 6-of-26 (.231) behind the 3-point line versus the Brown Bears, yet the Wildcats still found a way to pull off the narrow win the last time out. Drew Crawford played a huge role in the victory as he registered a double-double consisting of 24 points and 11 rebounds. Almost posting a double-double of his own was Kale Abrahamson who came off the bench to supply 11 points and nine rebounds, although he did shoot just 1-of-7 behind the 3-point line. Alex Olah chipped in 10 points, but he missed all but one of his five attempts at the free-throw line.
Crawford has now led the Wildcats in scoring in each of the last four outings, generating 16.5 ppg overall as he shoots 42.2 percent from 3-point range. For someone who has an eye for making good shot selections out on the perimeter, Crawford is also a great rebounder with his team-best 7.9 boards per outing. JerShon Cobb (13.6 ppg) is listed as the leading scorer for the program this season, but he has been sidelined of late with an ankle injury and is again listed as questionable for this outing. As a group, the Wildcats are putting up 67.6 ppg, but the defense is making things interesting with only 63.8 ppg allowed.
With Cobb unable to make an appearance presumably, the Blue Demons stand to have a decided advantage in this meeting, even though they are playing on the road.
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