For a team that's struggled to score, Drew Crawford sure is doing a lot of it.
The fifth-year Northwestern senior is carrying the Wildcats offensively during a stretch that's seen the team win four of its last six games. And, Wednesday night, Crawford had his biggest game of the season in one of Northwestern's biggest games ever. How fitting.
The Cats upset the Badgers in Madison, only the first time that's happened since 1996. And it was thanks to the scoring efforts of Crawford, who poured in a season-high 30 points, accounting for nearly half of Northwestern's 65. Of course, strong defense and holding the opponent to a terribly low shooting percentage had a big role to play, as it has throughout this stretch of success for the Cats. But if not for Crawford, it wouldn't have been the monumental upset it ended up being.
"I could go down the line and talk about every kid and everyone contributed," Northwestern head coach Chris Collins said after the game. "But mostly Drew, because Drew, as a fifth-year senior, as our leader, as our captain, he just put us on his back in the second half. To get 30 points and eight rebounds and step up and make big free throws at the end when they were making a run on us, he was a man tonight. I’m just so very proud of the player he is becoming as well."
And the 30-point outburst for Crawford isn't some kind of anomaly. He's been typically the Cats' lone source of offensive production for a while now, and he's quietly among the league-leaders in several categories. He's averaging 16.2 points per game, which ranks eighth in the Big Ten, and he's been particularly prolific of late, averaging 21.5 points per game over the past four games, in which Northwestern is 3-1.
But how about this: Crawford ranks fifth in the Big Ten in rebounding. The senior is 6-foot-5, not a short guy, but he's averaging 6.9 rebounds a game. Everyone else in the top eight is described as a "big man." Crawford is not. That's impressive. He hauled in another eight of those Wednesday.
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Though those individual stats likely don't mean as much to Crawford as what his team has been doing. Even though he's the 14th best scorer in Big Ten history — and will surely be climbing that list as the season marches on — it's these four Big Ten wins that likely stand out as his favorite number. Things have turned around for Northwestern, and Crawford is right in the center of it. If you would have said that back when he shot 3-of-11 in a 76-49 loss to Wisconsin back on Jan. 2, there probably weren't many who would've believed you. And that is why this feels so good for Crawford, Collins and the Wildcats.
“It feels great. Wisconsin’s an unbelievable team, and they embarrassed us last game. They’re such a good team and we’ve struggled against them in the past, so to be able to come in here and be able to have a great team victory feels great," Crawford said.