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Monday, December 20, 2010
Rapid Reaction: Northwestern 92, St. Francis (NY) 61

By Kieran Darcy

NEW YORK -- A quick take on Northwestern's 92-61 win over St. Francis of Brooklyn on Monday night, in the opening game of the 2010 Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden.
WHAT IT MEANS: Northwestern -- one of nine undefeated teams in all of Division I heading into Monday night -- moves to 8-0 on the season, continuing its best start since 1993-94, when the Wildcats began the season 9-0. St. Francis drops to 6-4, and has its five-game winning streak snapped.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: There's been a lot of talk about Northwestern's John Shurna, who came in averaging 23.7 points per game, shooting 64.3 percent from the field and 62.2 percent from 3-point range. And Shurna played very well, finishing with 26 points. But Drew Crawford was the Wildcats' star on Monday night. The 6-foot-5 sophomore, who came in averaging 13.9 points per game, poured in 25, to go along with nine rebounds and eight assists -- just missing a triple-double.

CRITICAL STRETCHES: St. Francis hung tough with Northwestern for the first eight minutes of the first half -- the game was tied at 17 with 11:42 remaining before intermission. But then the Terriers went scoreless for the next six minutes, 11 seconds -- the Wildcats went on a 19-2 run, and led 45-31 at halftime.

St. Francis showed signs of life early in the second half, scoring the first seven points to cut the lead to 45-38. But another run by Northwestern -- this one a 14-2 stretch -- left the Wildcats in command the rest of the way.

DOUBLE-MUZZLED: The Terriers' top two scorers -- guards Akeem Bennett and Ricky Cadell -- were both pretty quiet Monday night. Bennett had 11 points (but a few came late, with the game comfortably in hand), and Cadell had just two -- both players came in averaging 16 points per contest. In general, St. Francis struggled to get open looks once Northwestern went to its 1-3-1 zone defense -- a good adjustment by Northwestern coach Bill Carmody.

To make matters worse, Bennett was ejected from the game with 2:24 remaining, for committing a flagrant foul.

WHAT'S NEXT: Northwestern advances to the championship game of the Holiday Festival, against the winner of the St. John's-Davidson game -- Tuesday night at 9:30 p.m. St. Francis will play the loser of that game, at 7 p.m. Tuesday night.