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Northwestern Basketball Practice Notes: 12/3

After a tough trip to Las Vegas, where the Wildcats fell by double digits to both Missouri and UCLA, Northwestern faces yet another road test on Wednesday in Raleigh, N.C., where they will take on the NC State Wolfpack as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Prior to the start of practice on Tuesday, coach Chris Collins, senior guard/forward Drew Crawford and junior guard Dave Sobolewski spoke about the two games in Vegas and looked ahead to tomorrow night:

- Sobolewski made it clear that he was dissatisfied with the trip as a whole, and was displeased with the account that his team gave of themselves. It almost seemed as if he was suppressing some anger, and that there was a hunger in his eyes after the two defeats.

Sobolewski was sure to ascertain the idea that the Missouri game was one they could have, and perhaps should have, won. “We felt like we gave it away,” he said. “We really felt like we had Missouri at half and we should’ve won that game.”

- Sobolewski specifically sounded disappointed with his team’s performance on the defensive end. The team captain was pretty blunt in his analysis. “We gotta play defense,” he asserted.

Collins echoed this sentiment. He said that they watched some tape of UCLA, but explained that all they had to do was look at the numbers to make light of the fact that their defensive showing on Friday night was inadequate. Collins attributed some of this to the lack of practice time that his team has had due to their complex travel schedule.

However, Sobolewski did explain that some of the defensive issues were actually rooted in offensive inefficiencies, such as turnovers and missed shots, which prevent the Wildcats from getting set in their half-court defense.

- Collins was rather upbeat despite the two setbacks. He said he was proud of the way the team responded after going down 14-1 to UCLA to start the game. With Crawford out and JerShon Cobb on the bench with two fouls, “it could’ve gotten real ugly,” Collins said. “Our guys showed fight, we got back in the game. We just kind of ran out of steam.” Collins said that when a team goes 13-17 from three-point range, you just have to tip your hat to them.

- Crawford practiced yesterday, and is sure he will play on Wednesday. Collins was a little more reticent given the nature of the injury (back spasms), saying that they were “cautiously optimistic” about Crawford’s availability.

Crawford did say that one added benefit will be the charter flight that the team will take to Raleigh. He also noted that he will use an electronic muscle stimulation machine on the plane in an attempt to subdue the negative effects that the flight can have on his injury – it flared up on the plane to Vegas.

Collins also talked about how big of a blow it was when Crawford left the Missouri game due to injury. “That lets the air out of the building a little bit,” he said. “He [Crawford] is our leader. He’s kind of the big brother on the team. I think the guys saw him go down and it knocked them back a little bit. You’re always more confident when your big brother is at your side.”

Crawford himself downplayed the impact a bit. “I think my teammates are capable of playing great without me,” he insisted. “But that being said, I want to be on the court, to help my team, to show them that I’m leading by example.”

- On the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Collins had this to say: “Being on the other side for so long, you’re locked in on the game you’re playing, but in the back of your mind, when you’re flipping around on the TV, you’re cheering for your conference. I think with the ACC and the Big Ten, you have the two preeminent leagues in college basketball, so there’s always a little bragging rights at stake.”

- Looking ahead to NC State--a team Collins is relatively familiar with from his time as an assistant at Duke--Northwestern’s head coach said that although he will have a decent idea of what the Wolfpack want to do on offense, it’s an entirely new NC State team compared to that of previous years.

Looking at the big picture, Collins said, “we’ve had a couple opportunities to get a marquee win. It hasn’t happened, but we’ve got another opportunity tomorrow.”