Men’s Basketball: Drew Crawford comes up big as Northwestern rallies past Purdue in double overtime


Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Senior forward Drew Crawford challenges his defender. Crawford shook off his slump Tuesday and tied sophomore guard Tre Demps to lead the team with 19 points, again stepping into a leadership role on offense.

Rohan Nadkarni, Reporter

When senior forward Drew Crawford was a freshman, he helped spur a monumental upset of a top-10 Purdue team in a key win for Northwestern.

Tuesday night didn’t have quite the same stakes. But Crawford came up big yet again in the game’s crucial moments, helping the Wildcats (10-10, 3-4 Big Ten) past the Boilermakers (13-6, 3-3) 63-60 in a back-and-forth, double overtime affair.

Crawford’s clutch night came as a respite during the senior’s recent offensive drought, and he punctuated the night with a block of a potential game-tying 3-pointer.

“It’s a little bit different, as a freshman, no one really expects anything from you,” Crawford said. “I was the guy in the background who was able to make a couple plays. It’s different when you’re a senior and guys are keying in on you. Either way, a win’s a win. Both were team victories, and that’s what feels great.”

NU’s other star was, once again, sophomore guard Tre Demps. Demps hit a pair of 3s to tie the game both in the second half and in the first overtime, and followed up those shots with pressure makes from the free-throw line.

“I have to find a way when we start the game to make Tre think it’s the last eight minutes,” coach Chris Collins said. “That guy has guts.”

Demps said it was “humbling” to be called on late in the game.

Surprisingly, much of regulation was played in transition. In NU’s most recent outings, Collins implored his team to slow the ball down, limit possessions and conserve energy.

On Tuesday, Collins pushed his players to run from the sidelines.

Offensively, the transition game led to mixed results. Demps air-balled a 3 on one such possession and many of Crawford’s layups rolled off the rim. On other transition possessions, the Cats capitalized, highlighted by a circus layup from junior guard JerShon Cobb late in the second half.

Defensively, NU continued to prove its recent dominance has been no fluke. The Cats hounded Purdue from the opening tip. On defense in transition, NU shined, mucking up Boilermaker opportunities with chase-down blocks and sound fundamentals.

The Cats’ offense sparked to life in overtime, when NU took its first lead in the second extra session.

Sophomore center Alex Olah played another inspired game, but his night was cut short when he fouled out on a controversial charge call in the second half.

Olah finished with only 4 points, but his nine rebounds and individual defense were key. Olah provided a legitimate answer to Boilermakers’ center A.J. Hammons.

Eventually joining Olah on the bench were senior forward Nikola Cerina, who also fouled out midway through the second overtime, and redshirt freshman Sanjay Lumpkin, who battled at center with Olah and Cerina out.

Collins admitted the game wasn’t always pretty, but it was surely savored all the same by the rising Cats. The ugly style is starting to suit NU, which was won three of its last four games.

“I knew it was going to be a grind-out game,” Collins said. “But our kids were resilient. It’s just a big win for us. I’m so proud of our guys, I really mean that.”

Crawford, who struggled shooting for much of the game, ultimately had a night that helped validate his decision to return to Evanston for one last go-around with a new coach.

“I want him to have a special senior season,” Collins said. “He’s done a lot for this program. For him to believe in me the way he did, someone who’s never coached a game, for him to take a chance with me? I’ll be forever indebted to him. I’ll always have his back.”

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