Badgers drop fourth of five to Northwestern
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Drew Crawford played the role of savvy senior leader to perfection.
The Northwestern forward hit a tricky 3 off a curl in the second half. He jumped high and made a long bucket with Wisconsin guard Josh Gasser playing nearly flawless defense, a shot so tough that Crawford pumped his right arm and let out a yell as he jogged back up the court.
Crawford, a fifth-year senior, scored a season-high 30 points, JerShon Cobb added all 10 of his points in the second half and the Wildcats upset the 14th-ranked Badgers 65-56 on Wednesday night.
Northwestern first-year coach Chris Collins earned his first big win on the road, and the Wildcats got their first victory in Madison since 1996.
But for all of the big shots made down the stretch, Northwestern was most proud of its defense. Wisconsin shot 26 percent (15 of 57) on the night.
"Our identity is defense . . . there’s no question," Collins said. "For me in basketball, defense is the time when you’re most united."
The smooth Crawford glided around the court for tough shots — none harder than the 3 off a curl with Gasser’s hand in his face to give Northwestern (11-11, 4-5 Big Ten) a 13-point lead.
Wisconsin (17-4, 4-4) turned up the pressure late to get within six with 41 seconds left. But Traevon Jackson lost the ball on a drive with 23 seconds left to seal the Badgers’ fate.
Ben Brust’s 21 points led Wisconsin, which lost for the fourth time in five games.
"Once you start missing, that basket gets pretty small — and obviously it got pretty small," coach Bo Ryan said.
After a 16-0 start to the season, defense has been a problem for the Badgers. They had their issues again, especially during an 8-0 run in the second half by Northwestern that helped break a 34-34 tie.
But offense was the bigger problem for Wisconsin, which uncharacteristically settled for some bad looks at times against Northwestern’s solid defense.
"Defense is where we hang our hat, that’s what we work one very day in practice," Crawford said.
He hit an off-balance layup with the shot clock winding down for a 54-39 lead with about 3:30 left.
The Badgers used pressure to get within 62-56 after Nigel Hayes went 1 of 2 from the foul line.
The Wildcats, though, held on from there and Jackson’s turnover proved costly.
Crawford finished 10 of 15 from the field and added eight rebounds, while Tre Demps scored 10 points.
Sam Dekker finished with 11 points and seven rebounds for Wisconsin, but was 2 of 9 from the field.
The Badgers overall finished 15-of-57 shooting, and hit more foul shots, going 21 of 27 from the line. They were 5 of 24 from 3-point range.
The Wildcats got their first victory over Wisconsin overall since 2009. It was a sharp contrast to teams’ first meeting this year, a 76-49 Badgers blowout in Evanston earlier this month.
But things have changed for Northwestern since then. The Wildcats are 4-2 in their last six games, and had held opponents to an average of 51 per game prior to a 76-50 loss last weekend to Iowa.
"In one month’s time, we’ve become a very tough group," Collins said. "And we’ve had to become tough because we’ve had a tough time scoring."
Still for every tough shot missed, Wisconsin did have some good looks that just didn’t fall through. Ryan, overall, said he was satisfied with the shot selection. The Badgers, though, got a combined 5 of 18 shooting from their talented frontcourt of Dekker and Frank Kaminsky.
After a poor start, Wisconsin but got back into rhythm briefly to start the second after getting the ball into the lane.
Kaminsky added eight points and 10 rebounds, including two offensive boards early in the second half that helped the Badgers briefly get out of an offensive funk.
Kaminsky slapped an offensive rebound to a teammate in the backcourt, then got another board on the same possession that led to a long 3 by Brust for a six-point Wisconsin lead.
Crawford had the answers down the stretch for the Wildcats.
"Couldn’t knock any shots down. Shooting percentage showed that," Gasser said. "Northwestern was hanging around and hanging around, and we couldn’t hit enough shots to stretch the lead."
Crawford scored 10 in a first half that had Northwestern trailing 23-22. The Badgers shot 6 of 24 (25 percent) in the half, including an 0-for-10 stretch.