Collins coaches Northwestern to win in debut

JAY COHEN AP Sports Writer Published:

EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) -- Chris Collins hugged his son Ryan, and then motioned for his daughter Kate to come to the front of room. He complimented her on her Northwestern purple dress as she made her way over for another hug from dad.

From his famous father to his players and children, Collins' first victory with the Wildcats was a family affair.

Drew Crawford had 25 points and 11 rebounds to help Northwestern beat Eastern Illinois 72-55 on Saturday night in Collins' first game as a head coach.

"You start your coaching career, of course you dream of being in those moments and having your own team and having to make decisions," Collins said. "It was great. It was exciting."

Clapping his hands at times and consistently barking out instructions, Collins was a ball of energy while standing in front of the Northwestern bench for most of the night. The 39-year-old Collins, who grew up near campus in suburban Northbrook, pumped his right arm after JerShon Cobb came up with a big steal that led to a layup for Dave Sobolewski at the beginning of the second half.

"It's coach Collins' first win and he's extremely energetic, so passionate about the game, about this team, about Northwestern," Crawford said. "He cares so much about it so to get that win and really celebrate in the locker room is a great feeling."

Cobb had nine points and eight assists for the Wildcats, who beat Lewis 57-46 on Wednesday in their only exhibition game. Sanjay Lumpkin was 3 for 3 from 3-point range for nine points, and Alex Olah added eight points and eight rebounds.

Reggie Smith had 19 points for Eastern Illinois, which is coming off an 11-21 season. The Panthers went 2 for 18 from 3-point range, compared to 10 for 21 for the Wildcats.

"Most teams don't know how to play as a unit yet, and we really don't," Eastern Illinois coach Jay Spoonhour said.

Northwestern opened the second half with a 7-0 run to build a 39-28 lead and continued to pull away even after Crawford picked up his fourth foul with 7:14 to go. Lumpkin made a 3-pointer, Cobb had a free throw and Crawford had another 3 to make 67-47 with 4:14 remaining.

"I was feeling good so my teammates did a great job of finding me," said Crawford, a fifth-year senior who missed most of last season with a right shoulder injury. "I think one thing that was big for us was getting into the lane and kicking out. Guys were doing a great job of that."

Collins was hired in March to take over for Bill Carmody, who was let go after the Wildcats lost their final nine games to finish 13-19 in the coach's 13th season at the school. Carmody coached Northwestern to four straight NIT appearances, but was never able to get school into the NCAA tournament for the first time.

Enter Collins, a former Mr. Basketball in Illinois who was an assistant to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski for 13 years. The son of former NBA coach Doug Collins quickly emerged as the top candidate to take over for Carmody, and he decided the timing and situation were right to run a program for the first time.

"I'm an emotional guy," Collins said. "I get excited. Good and bad. Just kind of who I am. I was really excited for the game. I just wanted to get out there and play."

With his father watching from the stands, Collins finally got a regular-season look at what he has to work with in Evanston.

Crawford hit a 3-pointer to give Northwestern a 29-11 lead with 6:16 left in the first half, but the Wildcats then went scoreless for the next five minutes as Eastern Illinois put together a 15-0 run. Smith scored seven straight points to get the Panthers within three with 1:38 left.

"I was just trying to put some pressure on them," Smith said. "Go to the hole and get fouled as much as I can. My teammates kept putting me in a great situation to go to the hole."

Olah responded with a tip-in basket, ending the Northwestern drought, and Tre Demps hit a free throw to help the Wildcats halt the Panthers' charge.

Crawford was 8 for 14 from the field, including a 5-for-7 performance from long range. He was the only player to score in double digits for Northwestern (1-0) and likely will carry a heavy load all year long.

"I thought Drew played like a fifth-year senior, all Big Ten," Collins said. "He kept our team calm the whole game even when we were going through some struggles."

Sherman Blanford had nine points for Eastern Illinois (0-1), which was 21 for 38 at the free-throw line. Dennis Green had eight points and seven rebounds.


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