Well, Drew, it’s been a hell of a ride.
The ‘Cats’ fifth year senior, and the program’s all-time leader in games started, scored six points and grabbed seven rebounds, as his Wildcats (12-18, 5-12) were trampled by Penn State (15-15, 6-11) 59-32 at Welsh-Ryan on Senior Night. It was his final home game in a ‘Cats uniform.
“Drew’s been great, and that’s why I feel so badly, because I wanted him so badly to go out playing really well in this building and be able to get a win,” head coach Chris Collins said. “I’m sad that I’m only able to coach him for one year.”
Early on, it looked as if Crawford was still drained from how emotional Senior Night can be, and missed the first three shots he took from the floor, including two from the line. Like a true scorer though, he didn’t lose his confidence and nailed five quick points in a minute’s span.
Meanwhile, his team didn’t seem to have any answers for the Nittany Lion attack. After the ‘Cats managed to keep things close early on, Penn State really kicked things up a notch and went into the half with a 32-15 lead on 51.9 percent shooting. D.J. Newbill, the second leading scorer in the Big Ten, led them with seven points and two rebounds at the half. He finished with 12 and four, respectively.
“Give them credit, I thought Penn State played really hard,” Collins said. “They have two terrific guards in Newbill and [Tim] Frazier that I thought really controlled the game.”
The ‘Cats, on the other hand, struggled to find the back of the net early on. For whatever reason they were settling for a lot of three pointers early in the shot clock, which just weren’t falling for them. In the first half they shot 2-of-14 from three and missed more than a half dozen shots near the rim. It was as if the offense decided not to show up.
“We just don’t have a lot of power offensively,” Collins said. “I take a lot of responsibility for that, because we have to figure out a way where we can get some help from the other guys. So if Drew and Tre [Demps] don’t have a game where they throw up 20 each, we don’t run into a night where we score 32 points.”
The second half was more of the same for the Wildcats. At the first TV timeout they found themselves down by 20 points. Nothing seemed to be working.
With less than 15 minutes to go in the game, the crowd became a little restless. Fans had shown up for Senior Night, anticipating a win and a career game from Crawford; instead, they were stuck watching their team shoot under 25 percent from the floor and get demolished by a lowly conference foe. For the last 17 minutes of the half the ‘Cats didn’t even get within 20.
The lone bright spot for Northwestern was sophomore Alex Olah, who followed up his double-double against Nebraska with a respectable 14 points and five rebounds. If he can continue this type of production for the next couple of years, the ‘Cats will be in great shape down low.
“It’s exciting – I’m really excited for him and his future,” Collins said. “To see where he is now, versus where he was when I first got here a year ago is like night and day.”
With just over a minute to go the inevitable happened: Drew Crawford was subbed out at home for the final time. He had a long embrace with his coach as thousands of fans gave him a standing ovation.
“I just said, ‘hold your head high,’ because he should,” Collins said. “He’s the model of what I want this program to be about going forward.”
Before the game, the three seniors (Crawford, Nikola Cerina and James Montgomery III) were all honored by the ‘Cats’ faithful. Not to take away from the other two, but it will be Crawford’s legacy that will last forever. When the PA announcer listed off his various accomplishments, the crowd went wild.
“The Northwestern community has always taken care of me, and I’ve always tried to work my hardest for this program, for the team and for the community,” Crawford said. ”So yeah, it’s a great feeling to be able to walk out and know that you’re cared about.”