Court Cats Face Physical Challenge in First Game

The Northwestern University Men's Basketball Team will face its first opponent of the season on Saturday (Nov. 9) in an exhibition game against the Midwest version of the EA Sports All-Stars. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. in Welsh-Ryan Arena.

The game will mark the first competition for the 2002-03 Wildcats team, which returns five veteran players, three players who averaged fewer than four minutes a game last season, and five freshmen who will see their first collegiate action.

The EA Sports team features former Big Ten players with whom the Wildcat veterans are familiar in former University of Illinois players Lucas Johnson and Sergio McClain as well as former University of Michigan sharp-shooting guard Leon Jones.  The EA Sports squad also features former Wright State center Marvin Rodger, former Cleveland State guard Doc Taylor, former Marshall University big guard Deon Dobbs.

Head Coach Bill CarmodyAlthough an exhibition, EA Sports will present one of the more physical contests the Wildcats may until the Big Ten season rolls around in January.  Lucas Johnson and Sergio McClain were among the Big Ten's most physical players, helping the Illi to conference titles in 1998, 2001, and 2002.   In their loss Wednesday night at Wisconsin, the EA Sports All-Stars committed 30 personal fouls, including four by McClain, and sent the Badgers to the line 31 times.

Last season, Northwestern was plagued by a conference worst free throw percentage of 60%.

It remains to be seen how the Wildcats will respond to physical competition this season since the graduation of Tavaras Hardy and Collier Drayton, who Head Coach Bill Carmody described as "arguably our two best defenders."

In addition, the Wildcats will most likely be without senior center Aaron Jennings who has been kept out of practice all week by shin splints.  Freshman center Ivan Tolic and junior forward Patrick Towne are also expected to sit as they continue to nurse preseason injuries.

Saturday's game at Welsh-Ryan Arena will be the seventh contest for the EA Sports All-Stars, who are on a 12-game tour that includes games against Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Notre Dame.  So far, EA Sports has been winless against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Wisconsin-Green Bay, DePaul, the University of Wisconsin, and Nebraska.  They travel to St Louis tonight.

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