Bill Carmody jumped right to the point during his postgame press conference.
“We were very fortunate to win,” the head coach said of Northwestern’s 74-68 survival.
It was the Wildcats’ first contest since senior leader Drew Crawford elected to have season-ending surgery on his torn labrum. It’s expected that Northwestern will struggle without him the rest of the year, but that wasn’t supposed to happen against Texas State.
Northwestern was sloppy throughout the game’s first 36 minutes, making uncharacteristic mistakes on offense and offering a sub-par showing on defense.
“We’re going to have to play a much more disciplined game,” said senior guard Reggie Hearn, who tallied 15 points.
The game’s momentum swing was quite literal, when Bobcat forward Corey Stern was tagged with a technical foul for hanging on the rim. An emotional boost for Texas State was halted, and the door was left open for Northwestern.
Trailing 68-63, the Wildcats were sparked after the technical foul, closing the game on a 12-0 run.
“That was major, that was major,” said Carmody. “It quiets things down, that momentum from a dunk—something which is positive and emotional to where we’re shooting fouls and have the ball.”
Northwestern’s comeback was keyed by a switch to the 1-3-1 zone, which stifled the Texas State attack. The Wildcats had just one field goal in the game’s final 11 minutes and 32 seconds—a go-ahead three-pointer from Dave Sobolewski—but it was still enough to escape with a victory.
The victory came in the Wildcats’ first game in nine days, following a layoff for exams week at Northwestern. The team had just three days to prepare since Crawford was ruled out for the year. There was some definite rust as the Cats tried to find their form.
“I think the exams showed up a little bit, but also that we had a lot of inexperienced guys out there,” said Carmody. “We’ve been trying for a couple days to have different lineups, but you never really know until you get them out there.”
Drew Crawford’s name has been announced in Northwestern’s starting lineup 109 times since he stepped on campus in 2009. It was unfamiliar when it wasn’t called on Monday night. The Wildcats must move on—even if their chances for success have slipped.
“We still have a lot to play for ourselves,” added Sobolewski, who led the way offensively with 18 points.
While the showing was far from pretty from the sans-Crawford Cats, it was good enough to get a victory.