That strong inside play will need to continue for the Cats as the season moves forward, especially against Baylor and in Big Ten play. This game will give Northwestern a chance to improve its confidence inside and ride even more momentum into Sunday's showdown.
However, the Cats have to be sure to guard against a letdown, as they almost suffered a big upset loss after winning the Charleston Classic, beating Stony Brook by five at home.
The series is tied 1-1, but Mississippi Valley State won the last game 49-47 at the S.P. SunClassic in El Paso, Texas in 2003.
KEY PLAYER FOR THE WILDCATS: Luka Mirkovic
Mirkovic will be the key for a number of NU's games this year, as he has to become more of a consistent threat inside.
For years, the Cats have lived and died with the three-point shot, but that leads to inconsistency, which has kept them out of the NCAA Tournament. If Mirkovic to continue to improve inside, that gives NU an opportunity to score more points down low, and it opens up shots outside.
Mirkovic has been inconsistent so far this season, but his play against Georgia Tech was impressive and this game provides a good opportunity to build on that performance.
KEY FOR THE DELTA DEVILS: Dominate the boards
Very few teams are able to out-shoot NU, so Mississippi Valley State's best chance of pulling the upset is attacking down low.
The Cats don't rebound very well — they didn't even out-rebound Georgia Tech; both teams had 29 boards — so if the Delta Devils can dominate the offensive boards and create second chance points, they'll be able to hang around.
KEY TO A WILDCAT WIN: Continue to shoot well
Even when NU struggles inside, it is typically able to beat lesser teams because of its superior perimeter shooting ability.
The main goal should be to establish an inside presence and continue to build Mirkovic's role, especially win the Baylor game coming up, but if the Cats struggle, they know that they have a good perimeter game to lean on.
John Shurna needs to continue his hot streak and Drew Crawford needs to have a big game to bounce back from an average shooting performance in Atlanta.
A big shooting performance not only helps NU win today, but it provides momentum heading into the Baylor game on Sunday.