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NU's Cobb OK; Marcotullio status still up in air

Beating

Michigan State

was good for the health of

Northwestern

’s RPI, an important gauge of its

NCAA

tournament chances.

As for the health of the team, that’s another matter.

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NU coach

Bill Carmody

does not know whether guard Alex Marcotullio will be able to suit up Wednesday at

Wisconsin

. He suffered an apparent concussion late in the first half Saturday against the Spartans.

Marcotullio took a shot to the head from Draymond Green as they battled for a rebound on a Keith Appling foul shot. Marcotullio’s neck snapped back, prompting him to motion to the officials that a foul should have been called.

He stayed in the game and drilled a 3-pointer to give his team a 36-34 lead but sat out the second half.

“He was a little woozy,” NU coach Bill Carmody said.

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Marcotullio and

JerShon Cobb

are NU’s top reserves, but Cobb has missed the last two games with hip soreness, a result of offseason surgery.

“Surgery is serious, you know,” Carmody said. “Sometimes you can push through it and other times you can’t.”

Cobb has been cleared to play and had three steals against

Illinois

on Jan. 4, but he’s shooting 35.3 percent, down from last season’s 38.9 percent, and is turning the ball over twice as much.

“He’s available, but I don’t know how much help he would give us,” Carmody said. “If I don’t have to use him, I’ll try to rest him and hope he can come back in a few weeks and be healthy and ready to go.”

Beating Michigan State boosted the Wildcats’ RPI to the low-to-mid 20s, depending on the formula used. ESPN.com has Northwestern 23rd, two spots behind 14-3 Kansas, one behind 15-3 North Carolina – and four ahead of 13-4

Michigan

.

Northwestern is 12-5 but its Strength of Schedule is eighth. The Wildcats have notched major wins over Seton Hall (No. 5 RPI) and Michigan State (6), and all of its losses have come against top-30, NCAA tournament-bound teams.

Northwestern will have a tough time improving its status this week with road games at Wisconsin on Wednesday and

Minnesota

on Sunday.

The Wildcats are 0-12 all time at the Kohl Center, losing by an average of 17.7 points during the Carmody era. But Wisconsin is hardly infallible this season.

The 14-5 Badgers are 3-3 in the

Big Ten

, and their last two victories have been close – 67-62 at

Purdue

and 50-45 over

Nebraska

on Sunday night. They shot 31.3 percent and outscored the Cornhuskers 18-2 at the foul line.

“We’re not the only team going through a shooting slump, but it’s hard to figure sometimes,” coach Bo Ryan said. “But it’s there, so we have to work on the defensive end and take care of the ball.”

The Badgers lost

Jon Leuer

to the NBA and solid shooters Keaton Nankivil and Tim Jarmusz to graduation.

Point guard

Jordan Taylor

’s numbers are so down – 18.1 points on 43.3 percent shooting last season versus 13.8 points on 39.4 percent shooting – that some suspect he’s injured.

Mundelein High School alum Ben Brust has struggled of late. Since going 7-for-7 from 3-point land against UNLV, he is 10 for 38.

Northwestern does have the advantage of an extra day to prepare. And NU’s mix of defenses (man-to-man and 1-3-1 zone) and lineups (three different starting centers in the last three games) are puzzling opponents.

“They’re probably tougher to prepare for than in the past,” Ryan said, “especially with (our) short turnaround.”

tgreenstein@tribune.com

Twitter @TeddyGreenstein

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