Drew Crawford once again led Northwestern in scoring against Michigan. The Wildcats beat the Wolverines for the second time this season. But other than those two very important facts these games were completely different.
Against Michigan a little over three weeks ago the Wildcats needed some impressive heroics from their freshman swingman in order to keep Northwestern's NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Tonight was quite different. The Wildcats used a team effort to dispatch what appeared to be an overmatched Michigan team tonight, 67-52, in front of 5,127 at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Crawford scored 17 points to lead the way, but it was the play of the entire team that made Northwestern's motor run on Tuesday. Four starters scored in double figures. John Shurna scored 15 and Luka Mirkovic and Michael Thompson each added 12. And while Jeremy Nash didn't score too many points - he had just 5 - he added a career-high 11 rebounds.
Northwestern pulled down 30 rebounds, but they still gave up way too many offensive boards. Sure, it looks like the Wildcats did a good job rebounding, but they still only pulled down 69% of Michigan's misses. While the defense was good enough to withstand it on Tuesday, there might be another night when things break.
The rest of the numbers play out the team-game theme. Michigan shot 32.7% from the field. The Wolverines' two stars: Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims, combined to shoot 6-23 from the field and score 14 points. Sims in particular had a very poor game as he scored 4 points, picked up 3 fouls and played just 22 minutes.
Northwestern on the other hand shot 54.3% from the field. The Wildcats had 21 assists on 25 baskets. Northwestern had 12 turnovers. Every starter had at least 3 assists. Shurna and Nash led the way with 5 apiece.
It was a team victory. It was as head coach Bill Carmody aptly put it after the game a "businesslike" victory. The Wildcats went out and did exactly what they had to do and now continue on to play Sunday's game against Indiana.
The Wildcats went on their run midway through the second half and never looked back. While stifling defense held the Wolverines in check as Northwestern used a 17-2 run over a little less than 10 minutes to push a 6-point advantage to 21. By the time Harris hit a three to end the run with 4:42 remaining, the game was essentially over.
From now until the end of the regular season every Northwestern home game is sort of like a mini-NCAA Tournament first round game. If the Wildcats approach each game with the precision and business acumen of this one, and get the same team effort, they'll be tough to beat.
Sure Drew Crawford led the way on Tuesday, but the Wildcats didn't need a savior, merely a teammate.