EVANSTON — Northwestern senior Drew Crawford's shooting touch was on display during Tuesday's season opener against Texas Southern.
And the Wildcats could only stand and watch as Crawford continuously hit the back of the net.
Crawford, the Big Ten's second-leading returning scorer, lit up Texas Southern for a game-high 20 points — all in the first half — to spark Northwestern to a 79-49 win.
Crawford scored 5 seconds into the game off the opening tip and never let up, hitting 8 of 9 shots in the first half including four 3-pointers.
"It's just one of those days where you feel pretty good," Crawford said. "We try to have those as often as we can. Coach (Bill) Carmody always says make shots and we work on it all day at practice every day."
The Wildcats' defense pressured Texas Southern (0-2) the entire game, aided by five players 6-foot-8 or taller which limited the Tigers' effectiveness in the post. The 14 points Northwestern allowed in the first half were the fewest since Dec. 1, 2008 versus UC Riverside (also 14 points).
Texas Southern failed to crack double digits until forward Aaron Clayborn's layup with 3:15 left in the first half, but that barely put a dent in Northwestern's 40-11 lead.
Ten players scored for Northwestern, led by Crawford and freshman Kale Abrahamson, who added 15 points including two deep 3-pointers that brought the fans at Welsh-Ryan Arena to their feet. The Wildcats led by as many as 37 points and shot 50 percent from the field.
"I think (Crawford) can have a terrific year, like a breakout year," Carmody said. " Now (John) Shurna's gone and it's on him now a little bit more."
Crawford, one of only three seniors on the roster, took control immediately scoring the Wildcats' first six points. Northwestern shot 59.3 percent in the first half — 46.2 percent from behind the 3-point line — while the Tigers missed shot after shot allowing the Wildcats to build a 43-14 lead at the half.
"Crawford is a special player," Texas Southern coach Mike Davis said. "He makes shots. I saw him warming up and when you warm up with a focus and concentration he had, you play that way. He got them going."
While Crawford was always expected to be the Wildcats' go-to scorer, Abrahamson impressed off the bench. He connected on back-to-back deep 3s midway through the second half to push the Wildcats' lead to 30 points, and they relied on his range.
Abrahamson's 15 points came on 4 of 6 shooting and converted 3 of 4 3-point attempts. His performance negated Crawford's inability to score in the second half when he suddenly struggled to make a shot. Crawford, after starting 8 for 9 from the field, wasn't as aggressive in the second half and missed all three of his shots.
"It was good to get in a rhythm and get on the court with the guys," Abrahamson said. "I just wanted to be ready whenever they called my name. That's what they tell you to do so I was trying just to sit there and be ready."
With the size advantage inside, the Wildcats feasted on easy buckets. Northwestern outscored Texas Southern in the paint 28-14.
Given Northwestern's insurmountable lead, head coach Bill Carmody went to his bench early and often in the second half. Three freshmen played in the blowout, including center Chier Ajou from South Sudan who was considered a candidate to redshirt. Ajou logged eight minutes and missed his only shot of the game.
"I think we're going to need him and I think he's going to help us," Carmody said. "You just have to get him in shape."