NU Notebook: Shifting to Taphorn

Notes on Drew Crawford, Nikola Cerina, Nate Taphorn and the remaining schedule.

— In another honor for the Northwestern basketball program, Drew Crawford was tabbed a First-Team Academic All-American. For all of the questions regarding why Crawford returned to NU—instead of transferring elsewhere—the senior has put together an excellent senior year. Despite recent struggles in key home losses, Crawford earned National Player of the Week recognition before this latest honor. He also leads the team in scoring and rebounding, with NU already winning two or three more games than was expected. It's a decision that turned out well.

Nikola Cerina was suspended for one game after "[taking] a swing with a closed fist or closed hand" at Ohio State's Amir Williams. It was the culmination of a regrettable fight for NU basketball, with tempers flaring in Columbus. Now, NU will be without one of its two big men for a winnable home against Indiana on Saturday. Cerina, while not normally called on, has contributed solid frontcourt minutes in the conference season. He's playing 9.5 minutes per game in the last eight contest, a necessary spell for center Alex Olah.

— Chris Collins shifted his choice of shooting specialists late in the Ohio State game. For the first time in months, Nate Taphorn made some key plays for the Wildcats. The seldom-used freshman hit two field goals and a pair of free throws in nine second-half minutes. For a while, Collins relied on Kale Abrahamson due to his defensive intensity and improving all-around game. But Abrahamson's offense appears to have stagnated. Oddly, the sophomore played well on that end for chunks of last season, with four double-digit scoring games in Big Ten play alone. Now, he's struggling badly with his shot and has failed to show the same defensive prowess. We'll see where he fits in from here on out.

— It's unbelievable to think that Northwestern found any success this year without any point guards and any frontcourt depth. Dave Sobolewski narrowly avoided another "DNP- Coach's Decision" at Ohio State, playing two scoreless minutes. He hasn't scored since Jan. 2 against Wisconsin—a pretty crazy statistic considering he started for two full seasons. Sobolewski also averaged nearly 10 points per game last season before the dramatic fall. In his absence, Jershon Cobb has been fairly strong from the point guard position. Though he's not an excellent ball distributor, he can create his own shot. Wednesday's loss broke his streak of five consecutive games with at least 10 points.

— Though everything seems grim around basketball in Evanston, the last four games are winnable. NU has already beaten Indiana and Purdue, with Nebraska and bottom-dweller Penn State on the remaining schedule. They're healthy, for the most part, and can gain momentum heading into the Big Ten Tournament. You could already argue that this season qualifies as a success, with five Big Ten wins including key road victories. Still, the difference five and, say, seven wins would be noticeable on the schedule. Even in the postseason-obsessed world of college basketball, it's okay to win just to win. NU returns to action on Saturday at home against the Hoosiers.


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