Stanford (7-4) at Northwestern (8-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, December 21, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Welsh-Ryan Arena (8,117) -- Evanston, Illinois. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Stanford 5-1, Northwestern 5-3. Away Record: Stanford 0-1, Northwestern 1-0. Neutral Record: Stanford 2-2, Northwestern 2-0. Conference Record: Stanford 0-0, Northwestern 0-0. Series Record: Stanford leads, 4-2.
GAME NOTES: The Northwestern Wildcats continue their season-long, five-game homestand on Friday night when they entertain the Stanford Cardinal at Welsh- Ryan Arena.
Stanford has gotten off to a solid 7-4 start, but it has developed a pattern of beating the teams it is supposed to while coming up short versus quality squads, racking up losses against Belmont (70-62), Missouri (78-70) and Minnesota (66-63). The Cardinal had won three consecutive games prior to hitting the road on Tuesday night and falling to nationally-ranked NC State (88-79).
The Wildcats' campaign started in spectacular fashion, winning their first six games, including a 72-69 overtime victory over Illinois State to capture the South Padre Island Invitational title on Nov. 24. Following that fast start however, Northwestern sputtered by losing three of its next four games, only to get back on track on Monday night with a 74-68 win over Texas State.
Stanford leads the all-time series with Northwestern, 4-2, but the Wildcats came out victorious the last time the two met in December of 2009, 70-62.
The Cardinal put forth an impressive showing at the offensive end versus NC State, making 34 field goals on a whopping 75 attempts (.453), but they found themselves on the wrong end of the scoreboard by allowing the Wolfpack to shoot a lofty 56.1 percent from the field for 88 points, a season-high for a Cardinal opponent. Doing his best to keep his team in the game was Dwight Powell with 23 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Aaron Bright came off the bench and shot 4-of-7 from 3-point range on his way to 16 points, while Chasson Randle and Josh Huestis netted 11 and 10 points, respectively. On the season, Stanford hasn't been all that potent shooting the ball (.404), but it has been able to score 7.1 ppg more than its opponents on average by holding them to just 39.9 percent efficiency from the floor. Powell (15.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg) and Randle (14.1 ppg) have been an effective inside- outside duo, while Huestis adds depth to the frontcourt by recording 8.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg and 2.6 bpg.
After scoring 65 points or fewer in three of its previous four games, Northwestern bounced back nicely in the six-point win over Texas State by draining 12-of-27 from beyond the arc (.444). Making three of those treys was Dave Sobolewski, who finished with a team-high 18 points. Reggie Hearn, Sobolewski's running mate in the backcourt, also had a strong game with 15 points. Tre Demps added 12 points, Jared Swopshire had 10 points, and Alex Olah put up eight points and seven assists in the triumph. The Wildcats' effort at the offensive end (.425 FG percentage, 68.2 ppg) has been heavily reliant on the 3-pointer, as it drains more than eight buckets from long range per game at a 37 percent clip. Hearn leads the scoring attack with 14.2 ppg, while and Sobolewski (12.0 ppg, 4.1 apg) is hot on his heels. Both of the top scorers have drained at least 20 3-pointers. Drew Crawford was averaging 13.5 ppg through the first 10 games, but he will miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury.
Featuring a pair of teams that play fundamentally-sound basketball at both ends of the court, this should be a real battle. Stanford has the more dynamic scoring duo in Powell and Randle, but it has yet to show it can win a hard- fought bout against a quality opponent, meaning Northwestern should be able to prevail in front of its home fans.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northwestern 75, Stanford 70
12/21 10:33:13 ET