Inside The Matchup

After a stretch of three games in four days, Northwestern got some well-deserved rest before heading to Creighton for tonight's matchup against the No. 23 Bluejays to close out non-conference season. Go inside the big game with PurpleWildcats.com

Creighton is 9-1 with a loss to St. Joseph's and wins against Iowa, Nebraska and San Diego State. Coach Greg McDermott's team is led by his son, Doug McDermott, who averages 25.2 points per game and 8.6 rebounds per game. The Bluejays rank No. 1 in the nation in assists per game and No. 5 in the nation in points per game (No. 6 in field goal percentage).

This is the second ranked non-conference opponent the Wildcats have faced, and they will look to improve from that showing — a 69-41 loss to No. 6 Baylor.

LAST MEETING:

Northwestern leads the series 3-1. The Wildcats beat the Bluejays 65-52 last year in Evanston.

KEY PLAYER FOR THE WILDCATS: Luka Mirkovic

After a promising start to the season, Mirkovic struggled mightily against Baylor, failing to convert at the rim on offense and providing little down low on defense.

While he has rebounded in the last few games — Central Connecticut State and Eastern Illinois — the Creighton game provides a much tougher test, especially against McDermott, who may be one of the nations premier, but most underrated, big men.

Mirkovic must find a way to be productive down low on offense. Not only did he have a lot of misses near the rim, but he was also blocked numerous times by Baylor's athletic big men.

On defense, he must play tough, like he did against Ohio State's Jared Sullinger last season, and can't allow easy shots or dunks. He has to play smarter and play tougher than he did against Baylor for the Wildcats to have a chance to win.

KEY FOR THE TIGERS: Shut down Mirkovic

Baylor took Mirkovic out of the game almost immediately, rendering the Wildcats ineffective down low, and forcing them to shoot outside.

While Northwestern likes to rely on outside shots, threes are much lower-percentage shots than shots in the paint, and with no threat down low, the Bluejays can afford to push their defense outside.

If Mirkovic gets going inside, he can generate points, but it will also create more open shots outside for the Wildcats' guards. But if McDermott and company can shut him down early, then they can put the game out of reach for NU by halftime.

KEY TO A WILDCAT WIN: Shoot well outside

Considering that McDermott is one of the best big men in the country, it's unrealistic to expect him to be completely shut down or for Mirkovic to have one of his best games.

Besides the struggles down low, Northwestern shot horribly against Baylor, finishing at 24.1-percent from the floor and 15.4-percent from three. That doesn't help the inside game at all.

NU must shoot better today — a lot better — to have a chance to win. Better outside shooting could help the Cats go on some scoring runs, keep them in the game and take pressure off Mirkovic inside.


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