Northwestern defense has opponents woefully off-target

Northwestern defense has opponents woefully off-target
January 23, 2014, 2:45 pm
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Vinnie Duber

The secret to Northwestern's sudden resurgence on the hardwood isn't much of a secret.

Cranking up the defensive intensity has worked wonders for Chris Collins' team, and his vision of transforming the Cats into a hard-nosed defensive group has come to fruition sooner than many thought possible. The Wildcats are surprising winners of three of their past four games.

But in case you needed some proof as to how Northwestern is doing it, look no further than this statistic.

In the past four games, the Cats have held their opponents — Illinois, Michigan State, Indiana and Purdue — to a combined 29.5 percent from the field. To put that in perspective, the nation's leader in field-goal percentage defense is San Diego State. The Aztecs are ranked No. 7 in the AP poll and have held opponents to 35.4-percent shooting over 17 games this year.

[MORE: Northwestern wins again as 'tough' Cats play all 50 minutes]

What the Cats have been doing of late has been nothing short of excellent. Here are the game-by-game numbers:

— Illinois: 18-for-64 (28.1 percent)
— Michigan State: 20-for-52 (38.5 percent)
— Indiana: 15-for-60 (25 percent)
— Purdue: 16-for-58 (27.6 percent)

For more statistical context, the Big Ten's worst shooting team is Northwestern, which only makes 39.5 percent of its shots. In each game during this 3-1 run for the Cats, the Northwestern defense has held opponents under their own bad shooting number. Michigan State ranks second in the conference in field-goal percentage at 47.8 percent on the season, and the Cats held them to almost 10 percent below their average in a Spartans win. All three other teams shot well below 10-percent below their season averages.

They say defense wins championships, and though no one is thinking that far yet in Evanston, perhaps we can all agree that defense wins three out of the last four games.