Men’s Basketball: Northwestern pulls off second upset over ranked conference opponent at Wisconsin


Source: Jane Thompson/The Daily Cardinal

Senior guard Drew Crawford pulls in one of eight rebounds the veteran nabbed in Northwestern’s 65-56 victory at Wisconsin on Wednesday night. Crawford’s team-leading 30 points was a season high for the senior.

Alex Putterman, Assistant Sports Editor

Against a ranked team. On the road. In a building where they had never won.

Northwestern 65, Wisconsin 56.

Seemingly long odds didn’t hold back the Wildcats (11-11, 4-5 Big Ten), as they upset the No. 13 Badgers (17-4, 4-4) on Wednesday in Madison for NU’s first-ever victory in the 16-year-old Kohl Center.

“I’m just smiling because I’m so proud of this group,” coach Chris Collins told WGN Radio after the game.

Forward Drew Crawford turned in one of the best games of his career. The senior scored a season-high 30 points on 10-of-15 shooting and hit several clutch buckets for the Cats as they pulled away in the second half.

NU trailed by a point at halftime and was still behind by 3 midway through the second half when Crawford nailed a game-tying 3-pointer. That sparked a 23-5 run, during which Crawford scored 14 points.

“Drew Crawford was a star tonight,” Collins said. “He did what a senior star player should do on the road.”

The Cats struggled to break the Badgers’ full-court press and saw their lead creep back to single digits but eventually held on to win.

As has been the case in recent weeks, NU’s defense was impressively sturdy. Wisconsin shot 26.3 percent from the field, making only 15 total field goals on the night.

The difference for the Cats was on offense. All season, the team has posted shooting percentages in the mid-30s, struggled to produce good looks and often missed them when they became available.

Wednesday was different. NU shot 47.9 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from behind the arc. In the second half particularly, jump shots fell in a way they rarely had this season. Crawford made three 3-pointers, junior guard JerShon Cobb drilled two more, sophomore guard Tre Demps hit several important jumpers, and even sophomore center Alex Olah joined in, sinking just his third 3 of the season.

“We finally had that half we were talking about where we could knock some shots down,” Collins said. “And I’m glad we did because we needed every one of them.”

The Cats got contributions on both sides from all over. Freshman forward Sanjay Lumpkin pulled down 12 rebounds, and senior forward Nikola Cerina chipped in with 6 points — all in the first half — tying his season high.

Point guard Dave Sobolewski did not play at all Wednesday, even as NU faltered against the defensive press. The junior had missed four games with a concussion before returning Saturday against Iowa, and it was unclear whether his absence was due to lingering effects of the injury or poor play.

Ben Brust led the Badgers with 21 points, but NU’s defense neutralized several of Wisconsin’s star players. Forwards Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky — who average a combined 27.6 points per game — totaled just 19, on 5-of-18 shooting.

Crawford, who pulled down eight rebounds in addition to his huge scoring total, was relieved when the effort was finally over and, of course, thrilled to return to Evanston with a victory.

“The whole 40 minutes you fight as hard as you can,” Crawford told WGN. “It’s exhausting. You’re diving on the court, getting banged up, and when you can grab the ball after the game and know that you pulled out the win, it’s a great feeling.”

The victory was the Cats’ fourth in their last six games and their second against a ranked opponent during that stretch. It was NU’s first at Wisconsin since Feb. 21, 1996.

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