Inside Drew Crawford’s Big Game

First off, a very Happy Holidays and bleated Merry Christmas to everyone in the LTP community! I hope everyone had a fantastic day and got to enjoy everything that makes you happy — good food, time with the family, appreciation for all that you have and a Northwestern win (I think the Nebraska game was on BTN on Saturday).

Seeing as it is the holiday season, I wanted to take a closer look at one of the most efficient and strongest offensive performances we will see from a player in a Northwestern uniform.

Much like Kevin Coble’s immaculate performance against Michigan State in 2009, Juice Thompson’s 35-point performance against Minnesota in last year’s Big Ten Tournament and John Shurna’s 37-point onslaught earlier this year against LSU, Crawford became a go-to offensive weapon that the opponent simply could not stop Thursday night in Omaha, Neb. against Creighton. If it were not for foul trouble — Crawford picked up his fourth foul with 14:39 left in the second half while Northwestern held a slim 42-41 lead… Creighton went on a 9-2 spurt to take firm control of the game — the Wildcats might have walked out of Omaha with a big non-conference victory and some momentum heading to the Big Ten season.

There was no doubting how well Crawford played and how important he was in the effort Thursday night.

A review of Crawford’s stat line: He scored 34 points in 31 minutes, shooting 13 for 17 from the floor, 3 for 4 from beyond the 3-point line and 5 for 5 from the line. He posted an 85.2 percent effective field goal percentage and an 87.7 percent true shooting percentage. Plain and simple, Crawford was putting the ball in the basket when he got it and making shots when he took them. That is the point of the game, right?

It is the efficiency that is just so startling. It is rare when someone uses so many possessions (using meaning that the possession ends with a shot attempt or turnover with the ball in his hands) and makes shots at such an effective rate. Crawford was taking and making 3-pointers and getting to the foul line often. That is how you score a lot of point while not needing to take a lot of shots.

Take those two games I mentioned earlier.

In the 2009 win at Michigan State, Coble scored 31 points on 10-for-16 shooting, making 3 of his 8 3-pointers and 8 of 9 free throws. That equated to a 76.4 percent true shooting percentage and a 71.4 percent effective field goal percentage. Those are great numbers, and Crawford’s were better.

In the 2011 Big Ten Tournament onslaught Juice Thompson poured on Minnesota last year, Thompson scored 35 points on 11-for-22 shooting, making five of his 12 3-pointers and all eight of his free throws. In efficiency terms, it turned out to be a 67.8 percent true shooting percentage and a 61.3 percent effective field goal percentage.

Compared to Crawford’s numbers from Thursday, those were good games but not great games like Crawford. The efficiency numbers are just staggering. If Crawford continued at those rates and was not in foul trouble, there is no telling how many points Crawford could have scored and whether the Wildcats could have actually won the game.

The incredible thing is Crawford took a lot of mid-range jumpers to get all those points.

Mid-range jumpers are recognized as the most inefficient shot in the game. It is not a sure thing like attacking the basket would be and it does not have the added bonus of an extra point that comes with a 3-point field goal. Northwestern’s offense is built on this theory — either you get a backdoor cut for an open layup or you find a way to get a player open for a 3-pointer. That is why the Wildcats like having so many shooters who can space the floor. Obviously, you do not completely eliminate mid-range jumpers. Drives are necessary to properly space the floor and get to the foul line.

Crawford’s work on Thursday came from all over the floor though. And he was effective from everywhere he worked it seemed.

According to the CBS Sports shot chart above, Crawford got to the rim for six layups and one dunk. Considering he also had five free throw attempts, we can maybe say Crawford attacked the rim 12 times for 19 of his 34 points. That is a good sign that Crawford was looking to get to the basket and get these high-percentage shots.

The other thing you notice is that Crawford did a lot of his damage in mid-range from the right side of the court. In fact, all his makes except two came from the right side of the floor. This makes sense considering Crawford is right-handed and it is easier for him to get to his shooting hand driving right. He is more likely to spot up more on the left side and attack from the right side.

Crawford was an astounding 7 for 11 on his jumpers, including 3 for 4 on 3-pointers. That means Crawford was 4 for 7 on mid-range jumpers. A solid clip to be making shots no matter how you want to cut it. But what it also shows is that Crawford was at his most effective and was looking to get to the basket. That is a good sign for a Northwestern team that relies heavily on three-point shooting. Without a post presence, the Cats need someone willing to go to the basket and draw fouls and, most importantly, score easy baskets.

Northwestern needed Crawford on the floor to create offense and force the issue a bit. This was Thompson’s role for a long time — and he did it looking to pass rather than score. This is the kind of aggression we want to see from John Shurna more.

Maybe though, this is what Crawford is. Maybe he can be Northwestern’s playmaker. Certainly, the Wildcats have a nice one-two punch offensively between Crawford and Shurna.

Will we see another big game like the one Crawford had on Thursday? Probably not. That was a fantastic performance. But it is not far-fetched to see Crawford use the way he scored all those points to continue to score in the future.

Thursday’s game was far from perfect for the rest of the team. Defensively the team needs to make some major steps forward before Big Ten play begins. But, the Wildcats had a fantastic individual effort from Crawford. It is the kind of aggressive effort the Wildcats need from Crawford moving forward.

Ticket Donation Goal: Got It!

For the past three weeks we’ve put a call to arms to the NU community to step up and donate a ticket in honor of John Phillips, father of Jim Phillips, who passed recently passed away. Well, you never seem to disappoint and on Christmas morning we got an influx of donations to push us past the 100 donated tickets for the Texas Bowl in his honor. Well done folks! Chris O. stepped up with a pair as did David B. and “anonymous” put us to the mark with 4! Carla Peters added yet another one as did Jason M. and┬áJack S. The Marshall family added a pair as well. We’re at 104 and will stop the asks from this point forward. Thanks for your incredibly generous support!

  • CatInTheHat

    Belated merry Christmas, LTP family, and a big CONGRATS on smashing through the 100-ticket goal for Jim Phillips!