Scouting Report: Northwestern

Northwestern has lost its last four games of the conference season, but they head back to Evanston, Ill. to take on the Hoosiers, who the Wildcats beat more than a month ago in Bloomington.

Here's a closer look at Saturday's Indiana opponent:

Northwestern Wildcats (12-15, 5-9)

Last time out: L, 76-60 at Ohio State Wednesday

Despite a 13-1 run in the first half that gave the Wildcats a nine-point lead, Northwestern couldn't quite keep up with the pace of Ohio State in the second half, falling 76-60 Wednesday at the Buckeyes.

Northwestern was led by a game-high 22 points from Drew Crawford on 8-of-13 shooting from the field, including 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. Tre Demps followed with 14, and Alex Olah and Jershon Cobb each added eight, but beyond that, the Wildcats got very little production.

Both teams went back and forth in the first 10 minutes, but Northwestern then tore off on a 13-1 run during a 4:15 stretch, propelled by four different Wildcat scorers. Crawford led the charge with five points off a jumper and a 3-pointer. Ohio State countered with a 12-3 run of its own to get right back in the game, and the Buckeyes went into the locker room ahead 37-33.

Ohio State began the second half right where the team left off, scoring the first nine points in the final 20 minutes to push to a 19-4 run. At the end of it, with 14:03 left in regulation, the Buckeyes led 56-37, capping a 40-12 run after Northwestern took its nine-point lead early on. The Wildcats would never get within 16 points of the Buckeyes the rest of the way.

2012-13 season

The Wildcats got off the 2012-13 season on a roll, winning their first six non-conference games, including wins over TCU and Illinois State in the South Padre Island Invitational. They then fell to Maryland in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, followed by a loss to UIC. Northwestern would finish its non-conference slate with a 9-4 record before taking on the rigors of the Big Ten schedule.

Northwestern faced a tough task, opening with No. 2 Michigan and No. 9 Minnesota, and both games ended in losses. From there, the Wildcats went on the road to beat Penn State, and a week later they took down No. 22 Illinois followed by the team's first home conference win of the season against No. 12 Minnesota to begin 3-4 in the Big Ten. The Wildcats would also beat Purdue at home a few games later but would finish the regular season on an eight-game skid before falling to Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

Just two days later, Bill Carmody was fired as the team's men's basketball head coach, and on March 27, the Wildcats hired Duke associate head coach Chris Collins to fill Carmody's spot.

What they do well:

Northwestern currently sits on a four-game skid coming into playing the Hoosiers Saturday, but when they've won, they've managed to slow teams down to their pace. The Wildcats have scored 49, 54, 63, 65 and 55 points in conference wins against Illinois, IU, Purdue, Wisconsin and Minnesota, respectively. In nearly half of their losses – four to be exact - they've managed to score only in the 40's.

Overall, they have the lowest scoring offense in the Big Ten, averaging just 60.6 per game – more than five points behind No. 11 Illinois. But on the defensive end, they hold their opponents to just 63.8 – fourth-best in the conference. They defend the 3-pointer well and also battle hard on defense in the paint grabbing rebounds. Northwestern struggles in those same areas on offense, but this season the team has shown if it can manage to fluster its opponents on offense, the Wildcats can hang around and fight for an ugly, low-scoring win.

Star players:

G/F Drew Crawford, Redshirt Sr.

Crawford ranks ninth in the conference in scoring with 15.9 points per game, carrying the mediocre Northwestern offensive attack. He doesn't shoot with a great percentage, just a hair over 41 percent, but he's been forced to take more than 13 shots a game – more than a third of them 3-pointers – to try to keep the Wildcats competitive this season.

Against IU earlier this season, Crawford scored a game-high 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting, the only player, along with his teammate Demps, to get into much of a rhythm shooting the ball for either team. He's the big key to Northwestern keeping up offensively with higher-octane offenses in the Big Ten, even while the Wildcats try to slow them down significantly on defense.

G JerShon Cobb, Jr.

Cobb didn't make much of an impact in Northwestern's first game against IU, scoring just five points on 1-of-7 shooting, but lately, he's scored in double-digits in six of eight games, even though the last four have been losses. He's also lately taken on a major load, minutes-wise, playing at least 35 minutes in eight of the last 11 games.

Northwestern doesn't have too many terribly potent offensive threats, but if either Cobb or Crawford can explode with a big game while the team's defense is on par, Northwestern all the sudden becomes a tough team to beat, even without much offensive firepower past the two.


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