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Northwestern rides first-half explosion to win over Texas Southern

by Callie Counsellor (@CCounsellor)

The halftime score read Drew Crawford: 20, Texas Southern University: 14.

Northwestern didn’t need much else Tuesday night, cruising to a 79-49 win over the Tigers in the Wildcats’ first regular season game.

“Crawford is a special player,” Texas Southern coach Mike Davis said. “He got them going. He just made shots. It’s a very difficult system to play against and it’s unbelievable to play against when they’re making shots.”

NU’s offense was off and running from the start, as forward Jared Swopshire won the tip and Crawford nailed a jumper just four seconds into the game.

Crawford hit two more field goals before Texas Southern got on the board. The senior forward didn’t miss a shot until three minutes before halftime, shooting 8-for-9 and 4-for-5 on threes in the first half.

“We’re always looking for ways to score,” Crawford said. “That’s one thing that’s big with coach (Bill) Carmody is trying to score on every out of bounds play, side out of bounds, and so any time we have a good chance to score we want to do it.”

As strong as the Cats’ offense was in the first half, the defense played its part in holding the Tigers to just 14 points with a field goal percentage of 20.7.

“I liked our defense out there tonight,” Carmody said.  “I thought we played pretty nicely and kept our bodies in front of our men, for the most part. I thought the team defense was pretty good, also.”

The defense let up a bit in the second half, and NU only outscored Texas Southern by one, 36-35, after halftime. However, the Cats kept a comfortable lead and got its bench players some time on the court.

Two NU freshmen saw the court for the first time in their collegiate careers. Forward Kale Abrahamson and center Chier Ajou both entered in the second half, well after the outcome of the game was decided. Nevertheless, Carmody saw promising play from the underclassmen.

“(Abrahamson) can make shots, (but) he’s got to calm down, too, because he’s excitable,” Carmody said. “But he gives you a little different dimension out there, and he’s fast.”

Abrahamson entered with three minutes left before halftime but didn’t attempt a shot. In the second half, after entering for Swopshire, he turned the ball over but quickly redeemed himself by hitting two free throws and making a layup, followed closely by a three-pointer. He finished with 15 points, including three 3-pointers.

Ajou came in for the last eight minutes, replacing fellow freshman Alex Olah at center.

“(Ajou) has just been playing well and I think we’re going to need him,” Carmody said. “We’ve just got to get him in playing shape so he can go for more than four minutes at a time. He got the ball down there (and) he couldn’t wait to make a move, but if he’s a facilitator when he’s in there, he’s going to be pretty good.”

The Cats will rest up for a quick turnaround, returning to Welsh-Ryan Arena to take on Mississippi Valley State on Thursday.