Defenses flex as Northwestern hosts DePaul

Consistent offensive success has been hard to come by for Northwestern and DePaul this season.

Perhaps another installment of this Chicagoland rivalry will jumpstart one or the other — or both — Saturday in Evanston, Ill., when the Wildcats host the Blue Demons.

Entering Friday, Northwestern (7-2) ranked 330th in the nation with an average of 64.4 points. The Wildcats are even worse at shooting the ball, with only four of the 363 Division I teams shooting worse than their 37.7 percent.

DePaul (6-5), meanwhile, has done reasonably well at home, but the Blue Demons have averaged just 67.3 points on 39.9-percent shooting in their four true road games.

In Wednesday’s 66-55 loss at Duquesne, DePaul shot a season-low 30.9 percent in its lowest-scoring game of the season.

“You’re not going to make shots night in, night out,” DePaul coach Tony Stubblefield said. “You can’t let that be dependent upon your success.

“If shots aren’t going down, you’ve got to be able to go to the glass for rebounds. You’ve still got to be able to defend.”

Though Northwestern has struggled to score, the Wildcats also have made it hard for opponents to find the mark. Northwestern ranks in the top 10 nationally by holding opponents to 34.6-percent shooting (fourth) and an average of 56.8 points (seventh).

In Northwestern’s 61-51 win over Prairie View A&M on Sunday, neither team managed to make 30 percent of its shots: the Wildcats made 29.5 percent (18 of 61), which was better than the Panthers (18 of 62).

“Defense travels,” said Northwestern’s Robbie Beran, who matched his career high of 20 points and had 12 rebounds. “You might not be hitting shots, or might be a tough offensive game. I think defense is something you can control.

“It’s a good calling card to hang our hat on.”

Beran made 6 of 11 shots in the game, which means his teammates sank just 12 of 50 — 24 percent. Northwestern earned the win by scoring 10 of the game’s final 12 points.

Boo Buie is Northwestern’s top scorer, averaging 13.6 points a game, with four others averaging double figures (including Beran, 10.7).

The Blue Demons’ Javan Johnson is averaging 18.2 points a game, and in the past five games has made 19 of his 33 3-point attempts (57.6 percent).

–Field Level Media