EDINBURG, Texas - For the second straight year, the Northwestern men's basketball team survived a scare from Texas-Pan American, earning a 77-71 win at UTPA Fieldhouse Wednesday evening. Drew Crawford led the way with 22 points, while John Shurna added 20.
The Wildcats were never able to shake the host Broncs who were playing their first game in their renovated facility.
NU held a 35-29 at the half behind 13 points by Crawford. The Wildcats executed their offense to perfection to open the second stanza, extending their lead to nine. However, the Broncs continued to answer as they got within one, 44-43, with 15:27 to go.
Northwestern finally switched to the 1-3-1 defense following a lay-in by Crawford and Shurna came away with a steal and a slam to force a UTPA timeout. The Wildcats' advantage would grow to as many as 11 at 65-54, but a seven-point run by the Broncs got them back to within striking range at 65-61 with six minutes remaining.
Crawford answered with a lay-in and Alex Marcotullio came up with a steal and a lay-up of his own to stretch the NU lead to eight. Marcotullio then drilled a 3-pointer to make it an 11-point game with 4:23 remaining.
As they did all game long, the Broncs clawed back again, getting to within 74-71 with 1:23 left. Northwestern missed a pair of shots at the rim but was able to get the rebound both times and called a timeout with 37.2 seconds remaining and 11 left on the shot clock.
The Wildcats put the ball in the hands of their senior point guard and Michael Thompson finished a tough shot at the bucket with one second left on the shot clock to increase NU's lead to five and the 'Cats held on the rest of the way.
Northwestern returns to action at 7 p.m. Friday as it opens its home season against Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Tickets are on sale at NUsports.com or by calling 888-GO-PURPLE.