Northwestern battles Maryland in Big TenACC Challenge


Northwestern battles Maryland in Big TenACC Challenge

Fresh off its South Padre Island Invitational Tournament title, Northwestern will battle Maryland in the ACCBig Ten Challenge Tuesday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

The Wildcats (6-0) followed up a blowout win over TCU with a thrilling 72-69 OT victory over 2011-12 MVC runner-up Illinois State on Saturday.

Northwestern is led by senior guardforward Drew Crawford (13.7 PPG), who's taken over as the leader of the Wildcats after the departure of the school's all-time leading scorer John Shurna. Senior guard Reggie Hearn poses as a threat from the three-point arc, averaging 2.7 per game. The Wildcats don't have much depth in the frontcourt, with their leading rebounder Jared Swoopshire only pulling down 6.5 RPG.

The Wildcats have been unstoppable the last four years in the ACCBig Ten Challenge with victories over Georgia Tech (2010, 2011), North Carolina State (2009) and Florida State (2008).

With a senior-led squad, the Wildcats are searching for the first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history.

On the other side, a young Maryland (4-1) team could use a win in Evanston to springboard the team to a competitive ACC schedule and a return to college basketball's elite.

Much news has been made concerning Maryland and the Big Ten over the last few weeks, but none of it has had to do with two teams competing against one another.

For Maryland, the game presents a set of challenges. It will be the Terps first true road game of the year, and the Wildcats will be the stiffest competition Maryland has faced since a season-opening loss to Kentucky.

Vegas set the Terps as five point underdogs, and with a young team Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon stressed the difficulty of the game.

"It's a tough challenge for our team where we are right now, Turgeon said to the press.

After an impressive comeback attempt fell short against Kentucky in the season-opener, Maryland has faced weaker non-conference competition at home in the last four games. Though the Terps won convincingly in three games, the Lafayette Leopards gave Maryland trouble.

Turgeon said that the game against Lafayette, which Maryland won 83-74, will help the Terps defend Northwesterns shooters.

They have shooters all over the floor, Turgeon said of Northwestern. You saw us against Lafayette against great shooters as the game went on. They got hot against us, and we had trouble guarding it.

Maryland should be better prepared for this game. The Terps will probably roll out a starting lineup with PeShon Howard, Nick Faust, Dez Wells, James Padgett and Alex Len and Turgeon has stressed closing out on Northwestern's guards.

While Maryland must focus on defending the Northwestern shooters, the Terps present offensive problems of their own. Big man Alex Len proved against Kentucky that he can dominate against any competition. If Len is on his game in Evanston the Terps could certainly pull off the upset.

Dez Wells and Nick Faust can also create problems on the wing, though both players are still figuring out there roles on the team and playing with one another.

Thanks to JP Finlay of CSN Washington for contributing to this preview.

Badgers defense puts Hawkeyes on lock down in win


Badgers defense puts Hawkeyes on lock down in win

In case you didn't know it already, this Wisconsin defense is very, very good.

Iowa doesn't have the most potent offense in the Big Ten, but that shouldn't cloud the impressiveness of another shut-down performance by the Badgers, who kept the Hawkeyes out of the end zone in Saturday's 17-9 win in Iowa City.

Wisconsin allowed just 236 total yards, only 83 on the ground, and limited Iowa to 2-for-13 on third down in the victory, one that moved the Badgers ahead of the Hawkeyes in the Big Ten West Division standings.

The Badgers' offensive production, at least when it came to everything besides points, was impressive, too. At halftime, Wisconsin had 246 total yards, 12 first downs, no penalties and nearly seven minutes more time of possession than Iowa. But the Badgers could only turn three red-zone trips into seven points, missing a field goal in the first quarter and giving away a goal-line fumble right before halftime. That lone touchdown was a pitch from backup quarterback Bart Houston to Troy Fumagalli.

After the Hawkeyes had to settle for a field goal that made it 7-3, Alex Hornibrook hit Kyle Penniston for a huge 54-yard gain down to the Iowa five-yard line. But three plays later, Corey Clement leaped for the end zone and coughed up the ball, a fumble recovered by the Hawkeyes for a touchback. C.J. Beathard then took Iowa down the field, setting up a 47-yard field goal that made it just a one-point game at halftime.

The narrow halftime deficit was a huge victory for the Hawkeyes, who had to settle for that first field goal after a series of mistakes emblematic of their first half. On third and one, a false start erased a first down, and on the next play, a Beathard touchdown pass to Riley McCarron was negated when Kirk Ferentz called a timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty.

Wisconsin finally rediscovered red-zone success midway through the third quarter, Clement punching in a touchdown from a yard out after a 57-yard Hornibrook throw to Quintez Cephus got the Badgers back down to the five-yard line.

But Wisconsin had another missed opportunity not long after, as Andrew Endicott missed his second field-goal try of the game, this one a more understandable miss from 52 yards away. After a battle of the punters for the majority of the second half, Iowa got down to the Wisconsin 21-yard line with about five and a half minutes left, but the Hawkeyes also missed a field-goal attempt, keeping it an eight-point game.

The Badgers marched down the field on a 62-yard drive, Clement's 34-yard dash the biggest play, and sealed the game with a field goal. Not even a massive kick return from Desmond King, which set up another Iowa field goal, could bail out the Hawkeyes.

Clement finished with 134 yards and a touchdown, with Hornibrook completing 11 passes for 197 yards.

Wisconsin's win sent it to 5-2 on the season, the first victory in a while after back-to-back losses to Michigan and Ohio State. Next up is another colossal showdown against Nebraska.

Iowa's loss was its third of the season, dropping the Hawkeyes to 5-3. Next up is a game at Penn State.

Northwestern starts fast, hangs on for win over Hoosiers


Northwestern starts fast, hangs on for win over Hoosiers

EVANSTON — Earlier this week, Pat Fitzgerald declared the Northwestern team that went 1-3 in its first four games of the season dead.

Boy does he seem right.

For the third straight game, the Wildcats’ offense had a big day, scoring early and often in a 24-14 victory over Indiana on Saturday in Evanston. Even with the offensive production falling off a cliff in the second half, that fast start allowed Northwestern to hold on for the victory.

Things started with a bang, Northwestern scoring on each of its first two possessions. Clayton Thorson and the Cats made things look easy, turning back-to-back picture-perfect scoring drives, the first going 70 yards on 11 plays and ending in a Thorson pass to Solomon Vault and the second going 75 yards in just five plays, the capper a 34-yard scoring toss from Thorson to Austin Carr. It was Carr’s sixth straight game with a touchdown catch.

After going three and out on their first two drives, the Hoosiers got on the board with a field goal, though it was one forced on a strong stand by the Cats’ defense at the three-yard line. Then Northwestern struck right back with another touchdown, a 32-yard pass from Thorson to Macan Wilson to end a 79-yard scoring drive.

Northwestern’s defense forced two turnovers after that — a crazy Montre Hartage interception and a turnover on downs — and outside of a strange fake field goal that puzzled all watching, Northwestern finished off a near-perfect first half with a buzzer-beating field goal to go to the break up by three touchdowns.

But after halftime, the Northwestern offense struggled to replicate its first-half success against a much-improved Indiana defense. The Cats ran just 14 plays and gained only 25 yards in the third quarter, allowing the Hoosiers to kick a field goal and score a touchdown (sandwiched around another turnover on downs) to slice the deficit down to 12.

Indiana missed a long field-goal try at the outset of the fourth quarter, but the Northwestern defense deserves plenty of credit for keeping the margin large enough to cover for the suddenly silent offense. The Cats turned in a couple of huge third-down sacks, and defensive back Kyle Queiro made an unbelievable, highlight-reel interception, looking like Odell Beckham Jr. with the one-handed snag.

The Hoosiers made one final attempt at a score with about two minutes remaining but again turned the ball over on downs. The Cats took a safety on purpose in the game's final minute backed up deep in their own territory, hence the 24-14 final.

The win sent the Cats to 4-3 on the season. Next up is a game at Ohio State.

The loss dropped the Hoosiers to 3-4. Next up is a home game against Maryland.