Drew Crawford scored 35 points and made eight three pointers Sunday afternoon in just his eighth college basketball game. Crawford’s 8 threes were joined by 12 more from his teammates for a Northwestern record 20 made three pointers in a single game.
Crawford’s 35 points also allowed NU to distinguish itself as the only Big Ten team to have four different players score 30 or more points in a game over the past two years. Crawford joins Craig Moore, Kevin Coble, and Michael “Juice” Thompson on that list of NU’s players to surpass 30 in a game. When you consider how much NU struggled to score in past seasons, it is amazing to think that NU has had some of the league’s top scorers the past two years.
Juice Thompson was second on NU in scoring this afternoon with 19 points and five made threes. Juice also distinguished himself in the scorebook with 8 assists against only one turnover. Perhaps most importantly, though, Juice also got the most rest he has had all season playing only 34 minutes in the lopsided NU victory. With the Wildcats playing 3 games this week it was nice to see Juice get some well deserved rest. Two other Wildcats in double figures were Alex Marcotullio who scored 11 points and made 3-of-5 three pointers and Jeremy Nash who scored 10 points, made 2-of-5 threes, had 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and finished one of the most impressive alley-op dunks I’ve seen from an NU player on a pass from Juice Thompson.
In the front court, NU got substantial rebounding numbers from both John Shurna and Luka Mirkovic. Shurna had 10 rebounds with 4 coming on the offensive glass and Mirkovic had 8 rebounds. Neither player scored much with Shurna getting 6 points and Mirkovic getting 3, but both guys contributed to the victory. They also combined for 5 assists with 3 from Mirkovic and 2 from Shurna.
As well as Northwestern shot today it is easy to envision the Wildcats having unprecedented success the rest of season, but the truth is this game was far from perfect. Bill Carmody showed clear displeasure with NU’s defense in the first half when the ‘Cats gave up 37 points. NU played much better defense in the second half, but clearly this was far from NU’s best defensive effort. When NU plays in the Big Ten they’ll need more consistency on defense. Also, although he had 10 rebounds John Shurna continues to struggle with his three point shot. Even in his 25 point game against Iowa State, Shurna hit only 3-of-10 threes. Combined with his game at N.C. State and today Shurna has hit just 3-of-19 threes over the past threes games. On the year he’s far below 30% from behind the arc. The good news is Shurna can score in many ways, but I think Big Ten teams will be more prepared for him. Shurna needs to heat up from behind the arc if he wants to be a truly difficult match up from Big Ten teams in the same mode as Purdue’s Robbie Hummel. Perhaps Coach Carmody having some weaknesses to point out is good, because NU can accomplish a lot if they keep winning and not looking past opponents.
Taking a look ahead, Northwestern plays North Florida on Wednesday night and Stanford on Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats will be favored in both games and if they can get past those teams and Central Connecticut State on December 22nd, NU will start Big Ten play with their best record since the 1993-94 team was 9-0 to start the year. With two more wins this week NU also has an outside chance to achieve their first national ranking in almost four decades. Granted UNF and Stanford aren’t powerhouses, but if NU is 9-1 after this week, and the right combination of teams go down, the ‘Cats could be ranked by the Tuesday before Christmas. That would be an incredible present for Wildcat fans.
News and Notes: The crowd of 3926 was pretty good today when you factor in the late Sunday start time and no students on campus...the officials today were Ed Hightower, Dan Chrisman, and Eric Curry all three have worked many big games so it was kind of funny to see them working NU and N.C. A&T...NU’s women’s basketball team also won today. The Wildcats defeated Kansas State 53-50 in Manhattan, Kansas. Those ‘Cats are 7-2 and 1-0 in the Big Ten. They like the men’s squad hope to follow the fine example of Coach Pat Fitzgerald’s football team and qualify this year for the postseason...Future Wildcat JerShon Cobb led his team past future Illinois guard Jereme Richmond when their high schools met at the Best of the Midwest Shootout in Marion, Illinois. Cobb posted 26 points to Richmond's 20 and Cobb's Columbia (GA) High School beat Waukegan in overtime 78-71. The current Wildcats open Big Ten play with the current Fighting Illini on December 30th.