Men’s Basketball: Northwestern survives Lewis in ugly exhibition


Annabel Edwards/Daily Senior Staffer

Drew Crawford searches for the basket among Lewis defenders in Northwestern’s exhibition victory Wednesday night. The redshirt senior sealed the shaky 57-46 Wildcat victory off an open 3-pointer with less than two minutes to play.

Alex Putterman, Assistant Sports Editor

Less than two minutes remained, and the outcome was still in question.

Northwestern led by 6, and the Wildcats had the ball but were struggling to score. Chris Collins, coaching his first game at NU, called timeout and huddled his team. The conversation ended, the Cats took the floor, redshirt senior forward Drew Crawford sank an open 3, and the victory was effectively sealed.

It was not an aesthetically pleasing start to the Collins era, as NU beat Lewis 57-46 on Wednesday in an exhibition game at Welsh-Ryan Arena. But the Cats won’t complain about a win, even when it doesn’t count toward the standings.

“I was very pleased to win the game,” Collins said. “I don’t care who you’re playing, where you’re playing them, what level they’re in. It’s hard to win.”

The first half was ugly and wrought with whistles. Both sides spent extensive time on the free-throw line, as the Cats made nine free throws in 15 attempts before the break and Lewis hit six in nine attempts. The teams each converted fewer than a third of their shots from the field, and they combined for 13 first half turnovers.

With seconds remaining in the period and NU leading 26-18, JerShon Cobb grabbed an inbounds pass under his own basket and took off toward midcourt. The redshirt junior guard split two defenders at the 3-point line, then evaded two more for a nifty left-handed layup that extended the Cats’ lead to double digits before the break.

“That definitely was a momentum swing,” Crawford said. “We were a little bit sluggish ending that first half, and that was big for JerShon to get to the basket and kind of give us some energy going to the locker room.”

After intermission, the Cats surged briefly, scoring 14 points in four minutes to open an 18-point lead. During the stretch, NU swung the ball quickly and shot early in the shot clock, a dramatic departure from the plodding Princeton offense of the deposed Bill Carmody regime. Collins said it was how he envisions the offense at its best.

But the productivity stalled and a 15-2 Lewis run cut the Cats’ lead to 5 with less than five minutes to play. Crawford’s shot clinched a game that was dangerously close.

“We set up a play, and they actually took us out of the play,” Collins said. “Drew made a great read, and that’s what you rely on a fifth-year senior to do — hit a big shot.”

Crawford was NU’s leading scorer, finishing with 15 points on 5-11 shooting. Cobb pitched in with 12, and redshirt freshman guard Sanjay Lumpkin added 8 points and eight rebounds.

Freshman forward Nate Taphorn earned his 10 points on only three field goal attempts, nailing two 3-pointers and four free throws.

Collins stressed his satisfaction with the Cats’ defense, which held Lewis to 46 points after the Flyers put up 79 and 82 in games against DePaul and Loyola, respectively.

“Our defense was really solid,” the coach said. “I thought our communication defensively was terrific. We held them to 30 percent shooting, which was a great number for us.”

Point guard play was perhaps NU’s greatest struggle Wednesday. Junior Dave Sobolewski and redshirt sophomore Tre Demps combined to shoot 1-13, and the team totaled only eight assists to go with 12 turnovers.

The Cats return to the court Saturday against Eastern Illinois in a game that truly counts.

“We’ve got to get better,” Collins said. “It’s November 6. I didn’t expect us to have a finished product. I just wanted them to play their tails off. I thought they did that, and that’s why we won.”

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