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Back spasms force Drew Crawford to sit out game against UCLA

Updated: November 30, 2013 12:24AM

LAS VEGAS — Chris Collins has made it clear that he isn’t a moral-victory guy. The Northwestern coach doesn’t want the program to be the “little engine that could.”

Collins would rather his team be burdened by the expectation of winning.

He seems to take every play personally. The first-year coach won’t turn his back to take off his suit jacket. He would rather leave every game dripping wet with sweat. That way he can give his team direction on every play, often so emphatically that he’s easily heard at Northwestern’s sparsely attended nonconference games.

But Collins won’t be critical for the sake of maintaining an image. He has purpose, including when he applauded his team’s effort after a 78-67 loss to Missouri in the Las Vegas Invitational on Thursday.

“Our guys fought,” Collins said. “I got nothing bad to say about our guys. We could have been a little smarter. We had some careless turnovers.

“[Missouri] wore us down with [its] athletes, but our guys played incredibly hard. I thought we played well and I’ve said since Day 1 if your team plays that hard you have to be able to live with the results.”

The same level of intensity wasn’t there for Northwestern on Friday night against UCLA in its final game of the Las Vegas Invitational.

Drew Crawford — who tried to gut it out despite back spasms throughout the game Thursday — did not play against the Bruins.

Crawford experienced intense spasms in his left upper back when a pile of players appeared to land on him during a scrum for a loose ball in the first half. The training staff massaged his back for several minutes with Crawford grimacing on the bench.

After being taken to the locker room, Crawford returned to action. But he sat down for good with about 12 minutes left when he put ice on his back.

Collins said that Crawford had been dealing with back spasms on the flight to Las Vegas and aggravated the injury making a move early in the game. The scrum appeared to make it worse.

On Friday, true freshman Nate Taphorn, who Collins thought had one of his best games against Missouri, got his first collegiate start in place of Crawford.

JerShon Cobb picked up his second foul a minute into the game against UCLA. Without Cobb and Crawford, Northwestern struggled early.

The Wildcats didn’t score their first field goal until 14:35, when substitute Kale Abrahamson hit a three-pointer. UCLA shot 76 percent from the field and took a 51-38 lead at the half.


Twitter: @SethGruen

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