Cats take home title

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas -- Tournament MVP Jared Swopshire posted 15 points and 10 rebounds and Drew Crawford added a team-high 20 points as Northwestern outlasted Illinois State 72-69 in overtime to win the South Padre Island Invitational Saturday evening.
The victory improves NU to 6-0 for the third straight season and is the team's 21st consecutive in the month of November.
The physicality and intensity of the contest resembled a Big Ten game as both defenses made things tough on the opposition in the first half.
NU scored the first four points of the game, but a 3-pointer by Tyler Brown eventually gave Illinois State a 9-7 advantage just under six minutes into the game.
Crawford scored seven early points, including a layup at the midway point of the stanza to get the Wildcats within 14-12, but the Redbirds hit consecutive treys to take their largest lead of the half at eight.
ISU's pressure affected the normally sure-handed Wildcats over the opening 20 minutes of play. The Redbirds were coming off a performance against UAB on Friday night during which they forced 27 turnovers and Northwestern turned the ball over 10 times in the opening half on Saturday night.
Dave Sobolewski finally became the third Wildcat to score when he hit a jumper with 5:07 left that pulled NU within 20-17. The 'Cats pulled to within one on two occasions, but two from Brown at the charity stripe with 2.7 seconds left in the half gave Illinois State a 26-23 lead at the break.
Northwestern held close to a decisive 26-17 rebounding edge in the first half, including grabbing 10 offensive boards.
Illinois State quickly extended its lead to start the second half, scoring six in a row to make it a nine-point game, but five straight points by Hearn closed the deficit back to four.
Trailing by six with 15 minutes left, NU picked up the intensity on the defensive end and turned it into offense. After three free throws by Crawford, Tre Demps came up with a steal and then drew a charge on the following possession. He then grabbed an offensive rebound and made two from the line to get the Wildcats within one before Swopshire hit a turn-around in the lane to give Northwestern the lead.
The teams continued to battle back and forth and the score was knotted 43-43 when Crawford got loose and drilled a 3-pointer with 3:47 left, giving the 'Cats the lead.
Illinois State closed to within one twice before a trey by Hearn increased NU's lead to 51-47 with 1:32 left. After Jackie Carmichael scored, Swopshire hit two from the line to make it a four-point game again. A three by Brown made it 53-52 'Cats, but Crawford hit a tough leaner with 24 seconds to go to put NU back up by three.
However, Brown hit another 3-pointer with 9.7 seconds left to tie it and Sobolewski's shot at the buzzer was off the mark, forcing overtime.
Northwestern scored first in the extra session as Sobolewski buried a three. After two ISU free throws, Swopshire scored on a tip-in and NU got a stop on the other end. A long deuce by Sobolewski extended the lead to five with under two minutes left.
Illinois State closed to within three points twice and then two within two on a triple by Brown in the closing second, but 10-for-11 free throw shooting by the Wildcats in the extra session held the Redbirds at bay.
Northwestern overcame 36 points from Brown who kept ISU in the game by hitting numerous deep 3-point attempts. Sobolewski contributed 16 points and Mike Turner had a career-high 10 rebounds for the Wildcats.
Northwestern returns to action at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday as it hosts future Big Ten member Maryland in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Tickets are available at or by calling 888-GO-PURPLE.