Northwestern faces its final non-conference challenge of the season on Thursday afternoon when it hosts Brown in Evanston, Ill.

The Wildcats (9-2) enter the contest on a four-game winning streak.

Northwestern ranks seventh nationally and second in the Big Ten in average points allowed per game (55.5). The Wildcats finished close to that mark in last Tuesday’s 92-54 win over UIC.

“From Day One, we understood that if we were going to be competitive, we were going to have to play elite defense,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins told the Big Ten Network. “The offense is starting to catch up to where our defense has been.”

The Wildcats have won back-to-back games by at least 35 points and forced a total of 43 turnovers. Chase Audige was the Wildcats’ top scorer in both games.

Audige is averaging 14.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.6 steals per game.

He resides 12 points shy of 1,000 in his career after recording a 19-point effort against UIC.

“We’re getting Boo Buie off the ball a little bit more and allowing Chase to have the ball in his hands,” Collins said. “I think it has really settled him down. His decision-making has been great, and I don’t think he gets enough credit for how elite he is on the defensive end.”

The lone loss for Brown (7-5) over the last seven games was against the same Michigan State team that Northwestern defeated in its Big Ten opener on Dec. 4.

The Bears beat New Hampshire 67-51 on Dec. 21, their first game in 11 days.

Sophomore Kino Lilly Jr. leads Brown with 14.8 points per game, but the Bears have also made their mark on defense by holding six opponents to 60 points or fewer this season.

“We were probably a little too vanilla defensively last year, and then even a little bit at the beginning of this year,” Brown coach Mike Martin said. “Now we’re varying our coverages, our switching combinations, how we defend certain guys.”

Against New Hampshire, sophomore Nana Owusu-Anane had 16 points and five rebounds, while Lilly added 15 points, three assists and two steals.

–Field Level Media