Men’s Basketball: Crawford’s continued struggles hinder Wildcat offense

Alex Putterman, Reporter

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Northwestern had an upset in its sights. The Wildcats just needed offense.

Early in the second half Wednesday night, down only a few points, NU’s defense continued to stop Michigan State. On the other end, however, the Cats, characteristically couldn’t do much. It seemed time for the team’s best player to step forward and provide scoring to fuel a second straight surprising victory.

But senior forward, co-captain and leading scorer Drew Crawford couldn’t deliver, and NU fell to No. 4 Michigan State 54-40.

Though the Cats struggled from the field as a team — as they have most of the season — Crawford’s stat line was most jarring. The forward shot 1-of-8 from the field, missing all four of his attempts from 3-point range. He finished with just 6 points and five rebounds.

After the game, Crawford said he needs to improve his shot selection and credited the Spartans with making scoring difficult.

“They’re a great defensive team, so I’ve definitely got to give it to them,” he said. “They do a good job just compacting the lane. Every time you try to drive they’ve got guards with quick hands reaching down at the ball.”

But Michigan State coach Tom Izzo wasn’t ready to accept full responsibility for Crawford’s off night.

“I think we did a good job, and I think he didn’t do as good a job as I’ve seen him play,” Izzo said. “I’ll give us a little credit, him a little blame.”

It was Crawford’s first single-digit scoring output since Nov. 28 against Missouri, when he left the contest early with an injury. That game was also the only other time this season Crawford made fewer than two field goals.

But Wednesday’s game was not an isolated poor performance for Crawford. In fact, it appears to be continuation of a trend.

Crawford is now shooting only 29.8 percent in his last six games, five of them NU losses. He’s 6-of-28 from beyond the arc and has turned the ball over 18 times during that stretch.

Scoring has been a problem for the Cats all season, with Crawford often the team’s only viable offensive weapon. Despite his recent drop in productivity, the senior still leads NU with 15 points and seven rebounds a game. Cats’ coach Chris Collins said has not questioned Crawford’s status as the team’s go-to scorer.

“No one cares more than Drew,” Collins said. “He’s our leader, he’s our guy and even in a game like this I’ll go with him any time.”

Twitter: @AlexPutt02