Category Archive for Basketball

Josh Rosenblat
Apr 9, 2014

Redshirt freshman center Aaron Liberman will transfer from Northwestern, according to a tweet from Northwestern’s men’s basketball team.

Liberman, a walk-on from Los Angeles, played sparingly for the Wildcats over his career. In 2013-2014, he appeared in just 10 games for a total of nine minutes.

There had been grumblings about Liberman potentially leaving the program, especially after forward Sanjay Lumpkin posted a picture of current men’s basketball players after a workout Monday. Liberman was not included in the photo.

Although Liberman did not make an impact on the court, he was one of Northwestern’s most popular players. He wore a yarmulke when he played and became the first player to wear one in a Big Ten game.

NU now only has six players returning next year, though it will bring in five recruits. Liberman’s transfer does not affect scholarship numbers, as he was a walk-on.

Apr 3, 2014

The premise for this article is the same as December’s. These grades are based on the contributions of each player this season relative to expectations and what the team needed from him to be successful. Essentially, it’s how well each player played his role. And as with December’s piece, head coach Chris Collins’ grade (at the end) does not take into account recruiting or any potential future success.

Here are the grades:

Drew Crawford – B+

Crawford was Northwestern’s best player this year, and he has been one of Northwestern’s best players ever. Glowing endorsements from teammates and head coach Chris Collins only magnify those facts.

Crawford’s final season at NU will in part be remembered for his performance in back-to-back games midway through the Big Ten season. The fifth-year senior led the Wildcats to consecutive stunning upsets on the road, with a Feb. 1 win at Minnesota following a Jan. 29 victory in Madison over Wisconsin. Crawford dominated the Badgers – yes, the same Badgers who are in Texas for the Final Four – to the tune of a season high 30 points and 8 rebounds. Those 30, combined with 17 more against the Golden Gophers, would garner him National Player of the Week honors.

So why doesn’t Crawford get an “A”? Inconsistency. When a fan base falls in love with a player, it’s merely natural to remember the good and forget the bad, and that’s what many do. Having established himself as NU’s best player, what Crawford needed to do to merit an “A” was be NU’s best player in nearly every game. Thus, performances like the 2 points on 1-15 shooting against Minnesota, the 9 points on 2-10 shooting against Indiana, and the 6 points on 2-9 shooting against Penn State slightly mar Crawford’s final season output.

JerShon Cobb – B+

Cobb is perhaps the toughest Wildcat player to judge for numerous reasons, most notably his struggles with injuries. Similar to Crawford’s, the junior guard’s season was littered with inconsistency. However, Cobb was still a major part of this team’s turnaround and its success.

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Chris Johnson
Mar 18, 2014

The announcement on Monday that sophomore forward Kale Abrahamson would transfer did not come as a huge surprise. Whispers Abrahamson would consider leaving after this season surfaced well before his move became official. Abrahamson is the third player to transfer since new coach Chris Collins arrived, joining forward Mike Turner and center Chier Ajou.

NU will also lose three seniors (forwards Drew Crawford and Nikola Cerina and guard James Montgomery III) to graduation in the offseason. That’s six players from this season’s roster that won’t be around in 2014-15, in case you weren’t counting. Five (four of whom have already signed NLIs) of those spots will be filled by a recruiting class ranked 37th in the country by 247 Sports. At least one of the two remaining spots is expected to be filled by a graduate transfer.

The net effect of this roster churn is that by next season, coach Chris Collins will have enough talent in place to at least put NU in position to contend for an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Only four players from this season’s team should figure prominently into NU’s rotation in 2014: guard Tre Demps, redshirt freshman forward Sanjay Lumpkin, center Alex Olah and guard JerShon Cobb. It’s doubtful all five of the freshman NU is bringing in next season will get a lot of playing time, but at least one, and probably two – let’s say three-star point guard Bryant McIntosh or four-star forward Victor Law – almost certainly will. While I have no inside knowledge of any players NU may be targeting via transfer, it makes sense the Wildcats would look to add a big man to pair with Olah.

Here’s a look at the players NU will have on scholarship next season:

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Kevin Trahan
Mar 17, 2014

Northwestern announced today that sophomore forward Kale Abrahamson will transfer, three days after the Wildcats’ season came to an end with a loss to Michigan State. Both Coach Chris Collins and Abrahamson made statements about the move through NU Sports:

Collins: ”Kale let us know that he would like to seek an opportunity to continue his playing career and his studies at another institution. We are appreciative of all of his efforts during his time at Northwestern and wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.”

Abrahamson: “I’ve really enjoyed my time at Northwestern. I’ve made some lifelong friends, and the support from the fans and my teammates has been unbelievable. It’s time for me to look for a better opportunity, but I’ll never forget what I’ve learned and all the memories I’ve made here at NU.”

The transfer isn’t a huge surprise, given Abrahamson’s desire to play more throughout the season. He had a frank conversation with Collins before the season started, trying to figure out his role with the team, and while he did end up starting at times, he never grabbed onto a sustained starting role. His playing time and results were erratic. Redshirt freshman Sanjay Lumpkin appeared to have passed him at the “four” spot, and there would be even more competition for playing time next year, with the addition of Vic Law and a possible graduate transfer.

Abrahamson is the second player to transfer this season, as center Chier Ajou did so earlier in the year. NU will now have 11 scholarship players returning next year, with the ability to add two more to get to the NCAA maximum of 13 scholarship players. The Wildcats will likely be on the lookout for a graduate transfer to play power forward.

As for Abrahamson, the West Des Moines, Iowa, product had offers from Iowa, Iowa State, Stanford, Harvard and some Missouri Valley schools, among others, coming out of high school. He would likely be a good fit at a mid-major, since getting more playing time seems to be the goal, but he will have to sit out a year. He will have two years of eligibility remaining after sitting out next season.

Mar 14, 2014

Northwestern’s season came to a rather unceremonious end Friday at the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. The Wildcats fell 67-51 to Michigan State in the fourth and final quarterfinal game at Banker’s Life Arena. Here are some quick reactions.

-       The final score is even a little misleading. Northwestern was outclassed from the jump. It didn’t originally seem like NU players were fazed by the big stage, and they stayed with Michigan State for roughly 10 minutes, but then talent and depth started to take over, and eventually shone through. This wasn’t about any one aspect of the game. It wasn’t about not being able to quell momentum, it wasn’t about getting rattled by a big Spartans run. It was a gradual decline for NU, and after awhile, any attempts to turn the game around seemed rather futile.

-       Michigan State attempted 29 first half shots, as opposed to Northwestern’s 19, and this was the biggest reason for the 18-point halftime deficit (40-22). Northwestern actually shot the ball decently, including a 3-7 mark from beyond the arc, but two things killed Chris Collins and his team: defensive rebounding – Sparty’s offensive rebound percentage was 42.9 at the break – and turnovers – NU turned the ball over on 32.3 percent of its first half possessions.

-       This wasn’t all about a poor Northwestern performance. We’ll get the opinions of the coaches after the game, but it seemed that Michigan State played a heck of a game, especially on the defensive end, despite the obvious inferiority of its opposition.

-       The only Northwestern player that arguably played well was Drew Crawford, who finished with 21 points. He stayed aggressive for 40 minutes, and every once in a while he’d make a play that made you think, “hey, Northwestern is [sort of] still in this game.” But he didn’t get anywhere near enough help.

-       Perhaps fatigue and heavy legs finally took their toll. There was a noticeable difference in quickness between the two teams – even more than there usually would be.

-       Crawford had one final “good-bye” moment when Collins took him out of the game in the final minute, and you could see the emotion on his face as he hugged teammates and coaches. Unless a lower-tier postseason tournament berth ensues, this will be the last time he sports a Northwestern jersey.

Postgame notes and quotes:

- Collins on Michigan State’s performance: “They played very well, especially in the first half. Their speed and their intensity, them knowing that we played such a hard‑fought game last night, I thought they did exactly what they needed to do by coming out with amazing energy and defensive intensity, and it got us on our heels a little bit early.”

- Collins: “Certainly, the two facets that they really hurt us with were the points off our turnovers and then their second‑chance points, which is what they do really well. They do that to a lot of teams.”

- Collins: “I’m really proud of my team. We emptied the tank last night in our game against Iowa, [then] had to come back and play, arguably, the best program in this conference. We fought till the end. We got down, and I think these guys showed who they were even until the end.”

- Crawford [very emotional]: “It’s a tough feeling, just because all the love there is in this program. I care about Coach Collins so much, every single one of my teammates, the entire coaching staff, down to the athletic trainers, our sports performance coaches, our managers.  Everybody just has showed me love since I’ve been here, and it’s been a fight, and we’ve done it together. It’s a tough feeling walking off, but I can say that I walked off happy, feeling like I gave my all to this program.  There’s nowhere I’d rather be for my last year, and looking back, I don’t regret that decision at all, and I love being a part of this team this year.”

- As Collins noted, Crawford Friday became Northwestern’s second all-time leading scorer, behind only John Shurna

- Collins [similarly very emotional] on Crawford: “He will no doubt go down as one of the all‑time greats in our program. I’m just sad I only had a chance to coach him for one year. He’s a special guy. As we move forward, we’re going to constantly talk about what he brought every day as we continue to get better, and as we continue to build our program. He’s laid an amazing foundation for the future of this program.”

- Izzo and Crawford embraced post game. Here’s what they say was said between the two of them:

Izzo: “I just said, ‘Hey, you’ve had a hell of a career, and I’m really proud of you. I’m glad you stayed.’ I told him that. I think that kid could play some basketball beyond college, I really do. Wherever it is, I said, ‘if I can ever be of any help, call me.’”

Crawford: “I just told him it’s been an honor playing against his teams for five years. It means a lot that he’s always respected me as a player, so it was nice to send it off that way.”

- Izzo on Crawford in general: “He’s one of those kids in the league that it’s a joy to go against him because you know he’s bringing it every night. If you talk to the kid at all, he could have jumped ship last year. A lot of people would have tried to pick him up, and he didn’t. It was good for Chris and it was good for the Northwestern program. It was good for the Big Ten to have him back, and it kind of shows you what a quality kid he is.

“I don’t know how a guy could be that good of a kid when his dad is an official. I don’t know how that’s possible, but he is [laughter].”

- Olah: ”Our legs were real tired, but we tried to give it all on the floor and tried to leave the floor — whatever the result was — with our head up.”

- Collins, when asked what he learned this year: [smiles] “Big Ten is a good league”

- Collins: “I’m sad that the season is over. I wanted to keep playing. Our guys wanted to keep playing. It just wasn’t in it for us tonight. Michigan State is really good, and our gas tank was on E, and we tried to do what we could, it just wasn’t there.”

Josh Rosenblat
Mar 14, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS — “You know,” Drew Crawford said after Northwestern’s 67-62 upset win over Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament, “the fact that no one really gives us a chance, that’s big time motivation, too, and we like it that way. That really drives us because we know we’re capable, and we’re capable of being a great team.”

Crawford and Northwestern face No. 22 Michigan State Friday night in the quarterfinals as they try for their second major upset in as many nights and, yet again, no one is giving Northwestern much of a chance. In two games against the Spartans this season, Northwestern has struggled to keep pace with Tom Izzo’s team suffering a 14-point loss in Evanston and a 15-point defeat in East Lansing.

“Now have a chance to be able to play Michigan State,” Northwestern’s Chris Collins said, “which to me is the standard of excellence in this league.  There’s a lot of great, great programs, and that in no way, shape or form does it disrespect anyone else in our league.  We’ve got as good a league as there is.

“But what Coach Izzo has done with his program, the kind of kids he has, the way he’s won, that’s a standard of excellence, and now we have a chance to rest up and come back tomorrow and compete against them and see how we can do.  To me the only thing that can come out of that for our program is positive.”

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Mar 14, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS – The moment had come. Yes, that moment had come.

Northwestern had hung with Iowa for much of Thursday’s first half, but after three consecutive Jared Uthoff 3-pointers, and then a Roy Devyn Marble bucket plus a foul, it seemed the tipping point had arrived. At the under-four timeout, Northwestern’s Big Ten tournament opener hung in the balance – and thus, so did its season.

“I thought that might have been the biggest four minutes of the game,” coach Chris Collins said. “They had a chance to kind of run away from us a little bit.” And that’s what the Hawkeyes were beginning to do.

Throughout the season, it’s been periods of games, stretches just like these that have plagued Northwestern. Think back to the non-conference season; to Stanford, to Missouri. Think back to Michigan, to Michigan State (in East Lansing), to Ohio State, and perhaps most relevantly, to both previous meetings with this Iowa team.

In all those instances, when this tipping point came – when pressure arose, and when the game looked to be slipping from the Wildcats’ paws – Northwestern crumbled. It became flustered, unable to deal with swings in momentum.

Thursday was different. “Basketball is a game of runs,” said senior forward Drew Crawford. “There’s always going to be teams going on runs against you, and you have to be able to deal with adversity. You can’t let one big play by the other team turn into a string of plays. Tonight, we did a great job of shifting that momentum.”

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