About Northwestern: The Anti-Gophers

While the Gophers always seem to play hard, their next opponent, Northwestern, hasn't always fit that bill. However, the Wildcats may have found some of that old spark in their last victory.

Urgency has been something that has not been a factor for the Wildcats much of the season.

Northwestern will play hard in spurts, but when the game is on the line they always don't play as if it's that big a deal.

Head coach Bill Carmody has been perplexed by this. Last year's Wildcats were not loaded with talent, but they regularly played hard for 40 minutes and knew how cause trouble for opponents when they played at home.

Carmody saw some of that old effort in the Wildcats' 67-61 win over Purdue Feb. 5. It was not a dominating victory, but Carmody will take any Big Ten win he can get these days.

Northwestern simply came out smoking in building an 11-0 lead. The key to that and the effort throughout the game was steady defensive play. "We defended fairly well early and got a lot of turnovers," Carmody said. "That was the difference in the game. The turnovers just affected everything."

That has been uncharacteristic for Northwestern — and so was the free-throw shooting. The Wildcats made 22-of-26 free throws — significantly better than the 62.1 percent they are hitting throughout the year.

But Carmody was not overly excited by Northwestern's second Big Ten win of the season — and neither should Wildcat fans. It came against a poor Purdue team that just has not been able to find any rhythm. Gene Keady was very unhappy with his team's effort.

If Northwestern can find a way to win at Minnesota or Iowa this week, then Carmody will have something to be pleased with.

— Despite the 67-61 win over Purdue Feb. 5, Northwestern trails the all-time series 113-39.

— Northwestern made 22-of-26 free throws against the Boilermakers, but the team ranks last in the Big Ten in free-throw shooting. The Wildcats are hitting 62.1 percent from the free-throw line.

— Northwestern is playing solid defense, allowing 61.8 ppg. That figure ranks second in the Big Ten.

PROBABLE LINEUP: Point guard T.J. Parker, guard Mohamed Hachad, guard Tim Doyle, power forward Vedran Vukusic, center Vince Scott.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We talked about last year, and everybody said what a great year we had. We were 8-8 [in the Big Ten], but we were 3-5 at this time. So being 2-6, we knew that if we just string some wins together, we'll be right back where we were last year.'' — Guard Tim Doyle on a meeting the players had prior to the Feb. 5 win over Purdue.

UPCOMING GAMES: at Minnesota, Feb. 9; at Iowa, Feb. 12

KEYS: Two road games could prove to be a problem. Minnesota is the feel-good story of the year around the Big Ten. The Gophers have more firepower than the Wildcats and could run them out of Williams Arena. Iowa is trying to hang on following the dismissal of Pierre Pierce.

ROSTER REPORT: Forward Vedran Vukusic scored 21 points in the Feb. 5 win over Purdue and is averaging a team-high 17.2 ppg.

— Center Mike Thompson could not play against Purdue Feb. 5 after spraining his right ankle in practice prior to the game. He sat on the bench with a plastic boot on his right foot. He could return at Minnesota or Iowa this week, but head coach Bill Carmody was not optimistic. "He's not walking on it," he said. "Nobody really knows when he will be back in the lineup."

— Center Ivan Tolic would have been Thompson's backup, but he broke his hand in practice prior to the Purdue game.

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