Cats shut down TCU

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas-Northwestern allowed its lowest point total in 14 years as the Wildcats cruised to a 55-31 victory over TCU in the South Padre Island Invitational Friday evening.
The 31 points were the fewest allowed by the 'Cats since a 68-30 win over Oakland on Nov. 21, 1998. The mark bested the previous low of 33 during Bill Carmody's 13 seasons as head coach posted by Maryland-Eastern Shore on Nov. 22, 2000, Carmody's second game at the helm.
Jared Swopshire paced Northwestern with 15 points, while Drew Crawford and Reggie Hearn added 12 apiece.
With the victory, NU advances to take on Illinois State in the championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday. The contest is being televised live on CBS Sports Network.
The Wildcats got off to a good start as baskets by Crawford and Alex Olah and a 3-pointer by Hearn gave NU an early 7-2 lead.
Northwestern's defense forced eight first-half turnovers by TCU, most of them in opening portions of the half, but the 'Cats struggled from the field and weren't able distance themselves from the Horned Frogs.
An offensive drought by Northwestern allowed TCU to close to within 11-10 with 8:11 remaining in the opening stanza, but the Wildcats' defense eventually allowed them to make a run.
NU forced eight straight missed field goal attempts by the Horned Frogs as well as four straight free throw tries over a span of six minutes and 46 seconds. The 'Cats scored 11 consecutive points over the stretch, capped by a three-point play and then a make from beyond the arch by Swopshire to make it 22-10.
Northwestern would eventually take a 24-14 lead into the intermission, marking the third time in five games this season that the 'Cats have held an opponent to 14 first-half points. TCU was limited to 27.3 percent shooting (6-22) in the first half, while NU shot 34.6 percent (34.6).
The Wildcats got to the charity stripe early and often at the beginning of the second half. Two makes by Crawford at the 15:15 mark made NU 8-for-8 in the period and gave the 'Cats a 34-21 advantage.
A trey by Swopshire out of the corner with the shot clock about to expire extended the lead to 16 before two baskets by Hearn and a fast-break layup by Dave Sobolewski made it 43-21 with 8:36 left and the rout was on.
In all, Northwestern went on an 11-point run over a span of eight minutes and 25 seconds.
TCU connected on just 13 of 49 field goal attempts in the contest (26.5 percent) and committed 14 turnovers to only seven for the Wildcats. The Horned Frogs failed to connect on any of their six 3-point field goal attempts, marking the first time an NU foe has failed to make a triple since Ohio State on Jan. 12, 2002.