Men’s Basketball: Fresh faces fuel Cats

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Daily file photo by Meghan White

Northwestern Chier Ajou attempts a layup during Tuesday’s game against Texas Southern. The seven-foot-two-inch center is positioned to be a major contributor to the Cats this season.

Rebecca Friedman, Reporter

Much has been made this past off-season over which players the Wildcats have lost. On Tuesday, their newcomers helped put some of those concerns to rest.

The season could not have started much better for Northwestern after a decisive 79-49 victory over Texas Southern University. The Cats look to build even more confidence against Mississippi Valley State on Thursday. The Delta Devils are next up for NU, coming off a 102-60 loss to Cincinnati on Tuesday.

The story of Tuesday’s game against the Tigers was senior forward Drew Crawford’s offensive prowess and the team’s defense.

“I liked our defense out there tonight,” coach Bill Carmody said. “I felt we played pretty nicely, kept our bodies in front of our men for the most part, and I thought the team defense was pretty good also. Drew (Crawford) sort of got hot in the first half there, which sort of pushed the game open.”

However, the team needs to work on consistency on defense, especially when playing with a lead.

“In the second half, I don’t think our defense was quite as good, but I liked the way that (Reggie) Hearn and (Jared) Swopshire were playing defense and rebounding,” Carmody said.

The Cats’ freshman class proved they will be another asset for the team for upcoming games, especially once the team figures out how to best utilize the new players’ talents.

“They’re a little anxious, but they’re going to help us,” Carmody said. “For a first game, I think it was pretty nice; we got a lot of guys in there. We just have to figure out our rotation and what we’re going to do, and I hope it sort of sorts itself out.”

Freshman forward Kale Abrahamson was huge offensively for the Cats, tallying 15 second half points, including three 3-pointers.

“I just wanted to be ready whenever he called my name,” Abrahamson said. “That’s what they tell you to do. I was trying to just sit there and be ready.”

Carmody also complimented freshman center Chier Ajou’s presence down low and highlighted the importance his play will have for the Cats in the future.

“He has just been playing well, and I think we’re going to need him,” Carmody said. “I think he’s going to help us. He’s 7 feet tall, and he’s long. We just got to get him in playing shape, so he can go for more than four minutes at a time. If he’s a facilitator when he’s in there, he’s going to be pretty good.”

If the freshmen continue to adjust and Crawford continues to improve and play at such a high level throughout NU’s non-conference schedule, the Cats will be prepared for Big Ten play. Texas Southern University coach Mike Davis noted NU’s potential for an impressive season.

“Crawford is a special player,” Davis said. “It’s unbelievable to play against (them) when they’re making shots. I do like this team, and I like Crawford as a leader.”

If Crawford continues to lead by example, the Cats should be poised for a successful year, especially offensively.

“Coach Carmody always says ‘make shots,’” Crawford said. “So we work on it all day in practice, every day. We’re always looking for ways to score. Any time we have a good chance to score, we want to do it.”

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