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Northwestern plagued by more foul trouble in loss to Missouri

Northwestern’s Sanjay Lumpk(right) battles Missouri’s Jordan Clarksfor loose ball Thursday. | RondChurchill/AP

Northwestern’s Sanjay Lumpkin (right) battles Missouri’s Jordan Clarkson for a loose ball Thursday. | Ronda Churchill/AP

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Updated: November 29, 2013 12:42AM

LAS VEGAS — Northwestern looked as comfortable offensively as it had all season when it played Missouri on Thursday in the Las Vegas Invitational.

In the first half, the Wildcats were solid defensively, particularly in closing out on the Tigers’ shooters. They played as hard and as physical as they have all season, despite being grossly undersized.

So what was the difference in the 78-67 loss?

Foul trouble that has plagued Northwestern (4-3), the result of a lack of discipline that’s shocking for a team so cerebral. Heading into halftime, starters Alex Olah, Sanjay Lumpkin, JerShon Cobb and Drew Crawford had two fouls each.

Northwestern’s success in conference play and against teams the caliber of Missouri (6-0) hinges on those four players staying on the floor. But foul trouble has been a trend that has defined the Wildcats’ season.

They’ve been able to overcome it only because they’ve played mid-major teams against whom their bench can compete. But going forward, the Wildcats can’t have it.

With their starters in foul trouble, they will lose. They’re not deep enough, and Crawford and Cobb are the only players who can be counted on for consistent scoring.

Northwestern could have beaten Missouri. When the Wildcats had their best five on the floor, they were better than the Tigers. Northwestern led by five at half.

Compounding the situation, Crawford suffered a left upper-back injury when a pile-up of players appeared to land on him during a scrum for a loose ball in the first half. Wildcats training staff massaged his back for several minutes on the bench.

He then was taken back to the locker room for about two minutes before returning to action and playing much of the remainder of the first half. After starting the second half, Crawford sat with about 12 minutes left and was done for the night.

Collins said Crawford had been dealing with back spasms on the flight to Las Vegas. It appeared to flare up as a result of that scrum.

Fittingly, in keeping with the theme of the night, Cobb committed his fourth foul with 11:02 left. With Crawford out, it was vital that Cobb, who led all scorers with 22 points, play the rest of the game.

When it was over, Lumpkin had fouled out, and Cobb and Olah had four fouls each.

The other starter, Dave Sobolewski, had three fouls.

It’s an outbreak for the Wildcats, and they have to find a cure if they hope to compete.


Twitter: @SethGruen

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