Illinois-Chicago (5-1) at Northwestern (6-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 1, 2 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Welsh-Ryan Arena (8,117) -- Evanston, Illinois. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: UIC 2-0, Northwestern 4-1. Away Record: UIC 1-0, Northwestern 2-0. Neutral Record: UIC 2-1, Northwestern 0-0. Conference Record: UIC 0-0, Northwestern 0-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 3-3.
GAME NOTES: Regional rivals are set to square off at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston on Saturday afternoon, as the Northwestern Wildcats play host to the Illinois-Chicago Flames.
UIC has gotten off to a fantastic 5-1 start, with its only defeat coming on a neutral floor versus New Mexico, 66-59. Since that Nov. 16 loss, the Flames have strung together four straight wins, most recently topping Northern Illinois on the road on Tuesday, 58-46.
Northwestern won its first six games of the season, including both bouts in the South Padre Island Invitational over TCU (55-31) and Illinois State (72-69 in OT). The Wildcats' perfect season game to an end in their latest tilt however, losing to Maryland in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, 77-57. The defeat also snapped a 21-game November winning streak for the squad.
In six all-time meetings, UIC and Northwestern have played to an even 3-3 split.
UIC has just one loss on the season despite a lackluster showing from the field through seven games (.390). However, with an impressive field goal percentage defense (.368) and scoring defense (54.3 ppg), it is able to outscore its opponents by an average of nine points per game. The Flames' win over Northern Illinois the last time out was a microcosm of their season thus far, as the team made less than 40 percent of its field goal attempts yet forced NIU into nearly as many turnovers (15) as it had made baskets (16). Despite the poor shooting effort, four of the five Flames' starters scored in double digits, paced by Hayden Humes, who shot 7-of-8 from the floor for 18 points. Daniel Barnes tallied 11 points and eight boards, while Josh Crittle and Gary Talton put up 10 points apiece. The balanced effort was no accident, as all four of those players score at least 10 points and grab at least five rebounds per game. Humes has been the catalyst with 13.8 ppg and 5.8 rpg, making more than half his three-point attempts in the process (14-of-27).
Northwestern has been similarly impressive at the defensive end of the floor, allowing opponents to put up just 56.7 ppg, but its offense has been more efficient than UIC's, making 43.5 percent of its field goal attempts. The Wildcats rely heavily on the three-pointer, as they average nearly nine long- range buckets per game at a 38.1 percent clip. Nothing was clicking in its latest game against Maryland however, as they struggled from beyond the arc (6-of-25) while allowing the Terrapins to make 52.7 percent of their shots overall in the 20-point defeat. One of the few Wildcats who didn't struggle from the floor was Reggie Hearn, who was 6-of-10 for 19 points. Hearn has gotten off to a great start, leading the team in scoring (14.4 ppg) while making an incredible 18-of-34 from three-point range. Drew Crawford scores 13.1 ppg, Jared Swopshire tallies 10.9 ppg and 6.1 rpg, and Dave Sobolewski rounds out the double-digit scorers with 10.7 ppg while handing out a team- best 4.4 apg. As a team, Northwestern's ball movement has been on point, as the team has registered 130 assists on 171 field goals, paired with just 71 turnovers.
Both teams follow a similar blueprint of balanced scoring and sound play at the defensive end, so this should be a evenly-matched battle. The Wildcats have the advantage out on the perimeter, which could play a factor in crunch time.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northwestern 64, Illinois-Chicago 58
12/01 10:35:51 ET