Northwestern passed its early-season home tests with flying colors. Now the Wildcats are ready to hit the road and see what they're really made of.
Drew Crawford scored 18 points and Northwestern hit a dozen 3-pointers Tuesday night as the Wildcats beat Delaware State 69-50.
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Crawford's three first-half 3s helped calm a sloppy offense as Northwestern (4-0) managed a double-digit lead throughout most of the second half. The Hornets briefly closed to within eight points with under 10 minutes to play, but couldn't maintain the momentum.
Freshman Alex Olah added 10 points, six rebounds and three steals. The 7-footer had his way on the inside as Delaware State had no answer for his size.
The game was affiliated with the South Padre Island Invitational, the tournament which both teams travel to Texas for later this week. Northwestern will take on TCU Friday, and Delaware St. faces Farleigh Dickinson.
"It's time for us to leave the friendly confines here," Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody said. "We're going to play some good teams down there. It's a step up, that's certainly true. I think that's what we need right now."
The Wildcats have won by an average of 22 points per game in their first four home contests.
"We're ready to face this challenge early in the season," Dave Sobolewski said. "Our non-conference schedule is harder than it's ever been, so we're excited to get going on those tougher games."
Sobolewski had 14 points and four assists in 37 minutes for Northwestern. The sophomore committed zero turnovers for a third straight game and has 25 assists with just two giveaways on the year.
"I don't take him out for a reason," Carmody said. "He knows what's going on. He comes through in the clutch, he's a competitor, he gets the ball to the right guys. He's not afraid to tell guys what to do -- including the coach. We need him out there, he's just a valuable guy for us."
Reggie Hearn, Northwestern's top scorer in its first three games, had 12 points and three 3-pointers.
Tahj Tate led the Hornets (3-2) with 23 points. Delaware St. has lost consecutive games after winning its first three. Tyshawn Bell was the only other Hornet in double-figures with 11 points. Northwestern out-rebounded Delaware St. 37 to 22, including 13 to six on the offensive glass.
The Hornets suffered a setback when senior Marques Oliver crumbled to the floor seven minutes into the game clutching his right foot during a Delaware St. possession. The 6-foot-7 senior had six points before leaving with the Hornets leading 13-10. He was able to walk off under his own power and re-entered five minutes later, but left limping again less than two minutes after returning to the court.
Oliver was testing the injury on the sideline as the second half was under way, but soon after put on a hoodie and sweat pants as he watched the rest of the game from the end of the Delaware St. bench.
"He's a good player. He's one of their guys," Carmody said. "I'm sure if you lose one of your starters, that's not good."
Northwestern turned up the offense with Oliver's big frame out of the way and ended the first half on a 25-7 run. While their ball-handling was sloppy at times, the Wildcats assisted on 11 of 14 first-half field goals and 21 of 26 for the game.
Northwestern hit four of its first five 3-pointers and went 7 for 11 in the first half.
Northwestern is 3-0 all-time against Delaware State. The teams last met in 2005. The Wildcats are 11-0 all-time against current Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference members.
Delaware State hit five of its first six shots to open up an early 11-5 lead, but Sobolewski hit a 3-pointer, then assisted on Crawford's transition dunk to help the Wildcats find a rhythm. Crawford tied the game with a 3 of his own -- one of his three in the first half.
Northwestern leaves for the South Padre Island Invitational after classes on Wednesday. The team will celebrate Thanksgiving together in between a morning practice and an evening shootaround.
"Our team always enjoys road trips because it's a great time for us to get together and bond as a team," Sobolewski said. "We'll just be (together) and hopefully find some turkey."