March 14, 2014
By Callie Counsellor
INDIANAPOLIS -- After a season of unexpected upsets and exceeded expectations, Northwestern ran out of magic in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament, falling to Michigan State, 67-51 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind.
As he had done so many times in his career, NU's Drew Crawford finished as the game's leading scorer with 21 points. In what would be his final collegiate contest, he moved into second place on NU's all-time scoring list, passing the legendary Billy McKinney (1974-77). The redshirt senior finished his outstanding tenure in Evanston with 1,920 points, in addition to his standing as NU's all-time leader in games played and games started.
Michigan State dictated the tempo early in the quarterfinal game, but NU kept pace for a while. Crawford rolled in a layup to start off the scoring, and big man Alex Olah muscled his way into the paint a few times to help the 'Cats knot the game at 10-10 after eight minutes of play.
But then, the Spartans began to close off the area under the basket to the Wildcats attack. Michigan State's stifling defense frustrated NU, often forcing the Purple and White to use the entire shot clock before taking an off-balance shot. Northwestern went scoreless for nearly four minutes while the Spartans built a six-point lead.
After Olah quietly halted the streak with a jumper, the 'Cats couldn't find an offensive rhythm, in part because of several turnovers and untimely fouls. On the other side, the Spartans settled right in, hitting three straight shots, including a triple, to open up a 31-17 lead with 3:36 left in the first half.
With less than two minutes to go before the break, Dave Sobolewski nailed a triple to bring the deficit down to 13, but Michigan State knocked down three in a row once again and took a 40-22 advantage into the locker room.
In the first period, NU shot well, 42.1 percent, but took only 19 shots compared to the Spartans' 29 in the first half. The Cats turned the ball over nine times and allowed Michigan State to grab six offensive rebounds, which turned into 13 second chance points.
Fighting for their tournament lives, the 'Cats refused to go out quietly. With 16 minutes left in the game, Sanjay Lumpkin dove for a loose ball under the Spartans' basket, fighting for it on the ground. Although the jump ball went to Michigan State, NU held its ground defensively, with highlights including a monster block from Nikola Cerina.
Crawford grabbed the defensive rebound and drove the length of the court, weaving between Spartans players for a layup. The Academic All-America first teamer followed that up with short jumper on the next possession to close the gap to 15.
Michigan State turned up the heat again and extended its advantage to 24 points with some hot shooting from junior Branden Dawson, who finished with 16 points.
With just a few minutes left, Crawford gave fans one last taste of the excitement and effort he brought to the game for five years. He started with a driving layup, then grabbed a defensive rebound on the other end and took the ball up the court himself before knocking down a three-point jumper from the top of the key.
After a triple by Sanjay Lumpkin, Crawford corralled a long pass from Tre Demps and nailed another three right in front of his teammates on the NU bench to close the lead to 13, 64-51.
The comeback was too little, too late, though. With under a minute to play Crawford exited the game to cheers from fans in both colors. Michigan State ran out the clock and held on for a 16-point victory. The Spartans advance to Saturday's semifinal round where they will face No. 2 Wisconsin.
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