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Northwestern needs more good scorers, falls to Minnesota 54-48

EVANSTON IL - FEBRUARY 16: Drew Crawford #1 Northwestern Wildcats tries shoot between AustHollins #20 Maurice Walker #15 MinnesotGolden Gophers

EVANSTON, IL - FEBRUARY 16: Drew Crawford #1 of the Northwestern Wildcats tries to shoot between Austin Hollins #20 and Maurice Walker #15 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Welsh-Ryan Arena on February 16, 2014 in Evanston, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 465285635

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Updated: March 18, 2014 6:30AM



Life without Drew Crawford might look something like what was on display at Welsh-Ryan ­Arena Sunday night when Northwestern took on Minnesota.

After a 54-48 loss to the Gophers, it was clear that when Crawford leaves at the end of this season, the Wildcats will need to find some scoring help.

On Sunday, Crawford put up only two points on 1-for-15 shooting and fouled out with 10.1 seconds left in the game. In the literal sense, Crawford wasn’t absent. But he might well have played his worst game of the year.

Crawford rarely has given this team an opportunity to glimpse into the future. This was only the third time this year that he has scored in single digits. Crawford put up six against Michigan State on Jan. 15 and two against Missouri in the Las Vegas Invitational on Nov. 28 — a game in which he was able to play only 13 minutes because of back spasms.

So, as five incoming freshmen adjust to the college game next season, is it too much to ask just a few players to shoulder the offense?

“We have confidence in other guys, too,” Tre Demps said after scoring nine points Sunday. “We want everybody else being aggressive. If they have their shots, take them.

“I don’t think it’s too much of a burden being called upon to score because other guys do so many other things.”

True, but those other things rarely negate the need for scoring.

JerShon Cobb continued his hot shooting, leading all scorers with 23. But foul trouble followed Cobb throughout the latter stages of the game, and Minnesota began to key in on him defensively with Crawford struggling.

Center Alex Olah scored 10, but rolled his ankle with just over three minutes remaining in the game. That left coach Chris Collins with nowhere to turn for his offense.

“When teams take Tre and Drew or a combination of two of my top three scorers out of the game, usually it’s going to be tough for us,” Collins said. “I don’t see that changing a whole lot the last five games.”

While Minnesota took Crawford out of this game, graduation will do that at season’s end.

So it behooves the Northwestern coaching staff to see what — if any — offense its complementary players can provide the team over the next five games.

It’s a talented group of incoming freshmen by all accounts of recruiting rankings and YouTube highlight reels. But it’s impossible to predict what kind of offensive impact they’ll have in the tough-minded Big Ten.

And it’s far-fetched to believe a group of freshmen could replace the scoring of veteran Crawford.

“We don’t have a whole lot of depth,” Collins said. “That’s what we need to find, and I need to do a better job of helping guys manufacture more points.”

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen



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