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Drew Crawford does heavy lifting in Northwestern victory

Northwestern’s Drew Crawford blocks shot by Brown’s LelKing Sunday. Crawford had 25 points 11 rebounds. | Nam Y. Huh/AP

Northwestern’s Drew Crawford blocks a shot by Brown’s Leland King on Sunday. Crawford had 25 points and 11 rebounds. | Nam Y. Huh/AP

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Updated: January 24, 2014 6:25AM

Northwestern coach Chris ­Collins can do all the mixing and matching of personnel he wants. He can lock himself in the film room trying to scheme different ways to win. But come game time, Northwestern has one winning ­formula.

Ride Drew Crawford.

In the Wildcats’ 58-52 victory over Brown on Sunday at Welsh-Ryan Arena, it was surprising the senior’s back spasms of nearly a month ago didn’t reoccur after carrying his team for much of the game.

Crawford scored 17 of Northwestern’s 25 points in the first half. No other Wildcats player had more than two before late surges from center Alex Olah and Kale Abrahamson helped seal the victory.

Northwestern has been able to rely on Crawford through a nonconference season in which he has looked like an all-conference player, but Collins doesn’t see it as a recipe for success moving forward.

“We need help,” Collins said. “We need guys to step up.”

That help eventually could come from JerShon Cobb, who missed his second consecutive game after spraining his ankle in practice Dec. 12. The team runs its sets only for Cobb and Crawford.

But even with Cobb, Crawford assumes a heavy burden. It was exacerbated in Sunday’s game, so much so that Collins used timeouts just to get his star rest.

With 3:24 remaining and the Wildcats (7-5) leading by five, Crawford skied above the rim to block a layup by Brown’s Tavon Blackmon, then landed on his ­surgically ­repaired right shoulder.

Crawford also had issues with his left shoulder after getting it tangled in practice this week. He had to wear a sleeve to keep it warm.

“I’m always concerned if he is wincing or not looking like he’s healthy,” Collins said. “That’s why I took a timeout. I saw him kind of jarring his shoulder and there was a couple minutes left and we couldn’t afford to waste a possession.”

That’s exactly what a Crawford-less possession would be for the Wildcats — a waste.

And that’s why the redshirt ­senior, who finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds in 40 minutes, stays on the floor at all times.

“It’s always going to be tough when you play pretty much the whole game,” Crawford said. “But it’s not like it’s something I can’t do.”


Twitter: @SethGruen

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