The Northwestern Wildcats (6-1) continue their non-conference schedule today in a weekend matinee as they host the SIU Edwardsville Cougars (1-6) at Welsh-Ryan Arena at 2:00 pm CST. This game kicks off a three-game homestand — though it will be interrupted by exam week — for the Wildcats, who don't have to leave the Chicago area for a game until their Big Ten opener in a few weeks at Nebraska.
Northwestern last played on Tuesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, beating Virginia Tech in overtime by a score of 81-79. Bryant McIntosh led the Wildcats with 19 points while Tre Demps added 17. Sanjay Lumpkin contributed 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds while Nathan Taphorn went 3-for-5 from three-point range off the bench to score 11.
The win was Northwestern's third in as many games, and was the second-straight victory for the Wildcats against a power-conference foe. The next time Chris Collins' team will play a major conference opponent will be Dec. 19 against the DePaul Blue Demons.
SIU Edwardsville, coached by Edwardsville, Ill. native Jon Harris, has had a rough go of it this season, losing its last six games since starting the season with a win over Arkansas State (along with a win over Division III Fontbonne). The Cougars have dropped games to decent mid-majors like Butler, Green Bay and Milwaukee in addition to St. Louis.
The Cougars' leading scorers are junior guard Burak Eslik and senior big man Grant Fiorentinos, who each score 13 points per game. Eslik is one of two upperclassmen that have started all seven games for SIUE while Fiorentinos comes off the bench and only plays 20.4 minutes per contest.
Carlos Anderson, a freshman guard, is the team's best three-point shooting threat, but, overall, the Cougars aren't very good at stretching the floor, as they've only made a hair over 25 percent of their long-distance attempts this season. Anderson is also SIUE's only backcourt player with a field goal percentage of over 40 percent. On a team that is shooting under 38 percent from the field this season, the frontcourt scoring options are the most reliable.
As the KenPom projections suggest, SIUE should be, by far, Northwestern's easiest opponent yet as the Cougars are (as of yesterday evening) No. 327 in Pomeroy's rankings. Remember, there are only 351 teams in Division I college basketball. The Wildcats shouldn't have much trouble. But you never know.