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Wednesday, March 7, 2012
4 keys for Northwestern in Big Ten tourney

By Scott Powers

Here are four keys for Northwestern in the Big Ten tournament this week:

John Shurna
Northwestern has to find offense from someone other than John Shurna and Drew Crawford in the Big Ten Tournament.
1. Stay competitive on the glass: Northwestern isn’t going to out-rebound most Big Ten teams. They’ve done so just twice in the last nine games. But what the Wildcats can do is strive to stay competitive on the glass. They can’t be out-rebounded 44-18 like they did recently against Ohio State and still feel good about their chances. In a recent win over Iowa, Northwestern lost on the boards by two rebounds, but still won the game. Minnesota is a difficult matchup for the Wildcats in this respect. The Gophers out-rebounded Northwestern 77-42 in their two games this year.

2. Unsung hero has to emerge: Drew Crawford and John Shurna are going to get theirs. They averaged a combined 35.3 points a game in the Big Ten season. But someone else has step up behind them. When Northwestern upset Michigan State, Davide Curletti went off for 17 points. In a victory at Illinois, Reggie Hearn scored 20 points. David Sobolewski had 22 points in a win over Minnesota. Alex Marcotullio had his best game with 12 points off the bench in a one-point victory over Penn State. And in a win at Iowa, JerShon Cobb had his best game with 13 points.

3. Get seven or more steals: Northwestern is 6-3 in Big Ten games it recorded seven or more steals this season. Those extra points off transition usually put Northwestern over the top. The three losses were to Illinois by one point, at Wisconsin by double digits and by two points to Ohio State.

4. Change Big Ten history: Northwestern has never won more than one game in the Big Ten tournament since the tourney began in 1998. The Wildcats have to change that if they want to assure themselves of another accomplishment they’ve never reached -- the NCAA tournament.