Wednesday, March 2nd, 7:30 p.m. CT.
On Senior Night at Welsh-Ryan Arena, Northwestern hopes to earn a win over Minnesota for their four seniors, the winningest class in Northwestern basketball history.
The Wildcats will honor their four senior, Mike Capocci, Ivan Peljusic, Jeff Ryan, and Michael Thompson. Led by Michael "Juice" Thompson, a four-year starter at point guard, this group has racked up 61 wins and two-straight postseason appearances.
But Senior Night will be all about Juice Thompson, who will play his final regular season game at Welsh-Ryan Arena. It has become such a constant to see Thompson's number 22 on the scoreboard for the starting lineups. The senior has started all 123 games of his career. Wednesday will be his last time starting at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Throughout his four years, Thompson has solidified a historic place in Northwestern basketball history. He ranks first in games played, games started, minutes played, and assists. In addition, Thompson ranks second in three-point field goals and sixth in all-time career scoring.
Being a part of the all-time winningest class in program history, it would only seem fitting to send the seniors out of Welsh-Ryan Arena with a win over Minnesota.
The Golden Gophers have had some problems of their own. During the two team's first matchup on January 26th, Minnesota was a top-25 opponent. Now, everything has unraveled for Tubby Smith's Gophers. Since Minnesota's win over Northwestern, they have dropped seven of their last eight games, with their lone win coming against last-place Iowa.
On senior night at Welsh-Ryan Arena, the Wildcats hope to send off their seniors with another win.
G: #22 Michael Thompson (5-10, 190) 14.8 PPG
G: #3 Mike Capocci (6'6, 195) 1.9 PPG
F: #1 Drew Crawford (6'5, 205) 12.5 PPG
F: #24 John Shurna (6'8, 215) 17.3 PPG
C: #12 Luka Mirkovic (6'11, 248) 8.3 PPG
LAST TIME OUT:
Despite a great comeback effort from Northwestern, the Wildcats fell to #12 Wisconsin at the Kohl Center. Juice Thompson led all NU scorers with 19 points, while forward Davide Curletti filled in for Luka Mirkovic with 18 points off the bench.
LAST NU-MINNESOTA MATCHUP:
During their matchup at Williams Arena in late January, 16th-ranked Minnesota was able to get an 81-70 win over the Wildcats. Juice Thompson led all scorers with 18 points. During that game, John Shurna suffered a concussion, which sidelined him for the next game.
KEY PLAYER FOR THE WILDCATS: Juice Thompson
This was a very easy pick. It's his last regular season game at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Thompson is from Chicago, and will have a large cheering section. Quite frankly, this night is his night. The spotlight will again be on Juice Thompson, and he has not disappointed as of late.
The senior point guard has led all Northwestern scorers in eight of the team's last nine games. In lieu of inconsistent play from the rest of the team, Thompson has picked up his team and kept the ‘Cats afloat.
In his final regular season game in Evanston, expect Thompson to put the exclamation mark on a great career in purple and white
KEY PLAYER FOR THE GOLDEN GOPHERS: Trevor Mbakwe
The 6'8 forward gave the Wildcats fits during their first matchup of the season, finishing with 18 points and 14 rebounds in Minnesota's win over Northwestern. Mbakwe averages 13.9 points per game and 10.4 rebounds per game, but as Northwestern already knows he can be explosive.
In Wednesday's game, the Wildcats have to focus on slowing Mbakwe down by keeping him away from the hoop on offense and defense.
KEY FOR A WILDCAT WIN: Rebounding
Rebounding has been an area which Northwestern has struggled with all season, and it just happens to be something that Minnesota excels at. On average, the Golden Gophers out-rebound their opponent by 5.5 rebounds per game, compared to the Wildcats who, on average, are outrebounded by 3.4 rebounds per game.
This means Luka Mirkovic and the Wildcat big men have to bring their best intensity underneath the hoop to neutralize the Gopher big men, including their leading rebounder, Trevor Mbakwe.
Coming off a career game in Wisconsin, don't be surprised to see Davide Curletti get some additional minutes against the Gophers.
If NU can control the boards, and get a special performance from their departing seniors, it could be a special night for the Wildcats.