EVANSTON -- Drew Crawford knew he had to be the guy for Northwestern. With second-leading scorer Jershon Cobb sidelined due to a sprained ankle, it had to be Crawford carrying the Wildcats’ struggling offense.
The senior forward delivered, posting a season-high 26 points and leading Northwestern to a comfortable 86-64 victory over Mississippi Valley State. When he checked out in the final minutes, head coach Chris Collins greeted him with a hug and a message.
“He’s a warrior,” Collins said after the game, sharing his words to Crawford.
“All I want all of our guys to do is have the urgency that Drew Crawford has every day. He’s an inspiration for me. There are times when I get down, I look at him and want to keep fighting.”
Crawford paced the Wildcats, posting 13 points in each half and keeping the offense flowing. NU also benefitted from 18 points by Alex Olah and Tre Demps, along with 13 from Sanjay Lumpkin.
This game was all about the Wildcats’ veteran leader. When Crawford had a chance to score, he took advantage.
“I’m always comfortable with the ball in my hands,” Crawford said.
Northwestern has had its share of issues on offense, but those went away on Monday evening. The Wildcats hit on 53.7 percent of their shots and had contributions all around. Collins said after the game that he has confidence in all of his players. They backed his statement.
“For us to see 86 points tonight, I think it was a really good confidence builder,” Collins later added.
Crawford agreed, adding: “This was definitely a big win for us. I think tonight, we played really well offensively.”
The Delta Devils appeared poised to hang around early in the contest, but Northwestern hit its stride on offense. One of the key contributors was Demps, the reserve guard who has been handed a starter-type role.
Demps has made progress in recent games, with his career-high on Monday being the highlight of a young season. The sophomore said he actually prefers his role as a bench player.
“I think the guys definitely look at me as a main contributor,” said Demps. “Just having the guys’ confidence in me is all I need.”
NU will gain a big boost when Cobb returns, likely for Sunday’s battle with Brown. His absence on Monday was more of a precautionary move.
“It just wasn’t smart, he wasn’t ready,” Collins explained. “It’s too long of a year. I wanted to give him all week to get ready for the Brown game.”
Even without Cobb in the lineup, Crawford and the Wildcats cruised to a confidence-boosting victory.