Coming off their best offensive performance in Big 10 play, senior Drew Crawford and the Northwestern men’s basketball team showed no signs of slowing down as they took on Minnesota at “The Barn” Saturday. Crawford scored 17 points in hard–fought 55–54 win over the Gophers that gave the Wildcats their third straight road win.
The 'Cats dived right into their slow, methodical offense from the opening tip and shot to a 14–7 lead in the first six minutes of action. Minnesota tried to stymie the attack by switching to a 2–3 zone, but all that left the ‘Cats’ acting point guard JerShon Cobb open for two straight threes.
The Gophers eventually staged a comeback near the led by 250–pound center Maurice Walker, who bullied his way to four field goals in the paint in the first half, helping Minnesota tie the game with six minutes left in the half.
Walker and sophomore sharpshooter Tre Demps traded shots to tie the score at 23 before several turnovers by the Gophers brought an end to Minnesota’s 16–2 scoring run. In the last three minutes of the half, Crawford nailed a baseline hook shot and guard Kale Abrahamson knocked down a late three to give the Wildcats a 32–29 lead.
Minnesota guard Deandre Mathieu, who had six points, opened the second half with his first two buckets of the night. On the next possession, Mathieu turned the ball over, and Demps showed off his speed on a rare Northwestern fast break for an easy layin. A minute later, Demps hit his trademark fade away jumper to give the Wildcats a 38–35 lead.
With 10 minutes left in the game, Minnesota’s second leading scorer Austin Hollins knocked down a three to tie the game at 40. Crawford, Hollins and Demps shot three consecutive running floaters over the next two minutes to keep the ‘Cats within one point.
Crawford then reminded the audience that he could score at will, completing the old fashioned three point play off an aggressive drive with eight minutes left, and then nailing a three with Hollins right in his face a minute later.
Although the Gophers used their full court defense the entire game, it didn’t really pay off until the 4 minute mark. Under pressure, Northwestern forward Nikola Cerina lost the ball, giving Minnesota possession, and 10 seconds later Hollins finished with a monster two–handed slam that tied the game at 50. After a six minute field goal drought, Demps knocked down a three with less than five seconds on the shot clock to give the Wildcats a 55–52 lead with 50 seconds left. But sloppy defense let Minnesota lay the ball in five seconds later. On the next Northwestern possession, Demps held the ball, but shot an airball, giving the ball back to the Gophers.
With 11 seconds left and down by one, Minnesota brought the ball up. With five seconds, Mathieu missed a jumper, but Walker brought down an offensive rebound only to miss a point blank layup as time expired, leaving the Wildcats with a one point win.
This is the first time since 1960 the ‘Cats have won three straight road games in Big 10 play.
- Shooting: The Wildcats shot 44 percent from the floor, and more importantly, 38 percent from beyond three point range. This Northwestern team has learned to spread scoring around the court, and when you add three point baskets to the mix, their offense in crazy efficient.
- Cobb's ball-handling: JerShon Cobb is no real ball handler. His size gives him some advantages in the half court, but Northwestern had problems getting the ball up the court the entire game. Turnovers caused by Northwestern’s inability to break the full court press gave Minnesota chances late in the game.
- Airballing at the end of a close game: Tre Demps has been very clutch in the past, and hit an important three under a minute left in today’s game. But when you’re up one point with under 45 seconds to play, and aren’t looking for a three-point shot, don’t let Demps hold the ball for 33 seconds before airballing a jumper. Especially when Drew Crawford is on the court.