Drew Crawford was sent to the bench after garnering two first-half fouls in the span of 18 seconds. Northwestern's senior scorer and leader was sidelined. A new team, still searching for its identity, needed an answer.
With the Wildcats in need of a boost, senior guard Reggie Hearn took charge. He poured in 23 points, all after Crawford's early benching, leading Northwestern to a 81-68 win over Mississippi Valley State.
"I'm a senior now," said Hearn. "I've been with the program three years. I've gotten really comfortable with the offense and what we try to do as a program. It's time for me to assert myself."
Fifth-year senior Jared Swopshire was also critical in Northwestern's success, adding 22 points on seven field goals. The Louisville transfer is asked to play a different role for the Wildcats.
"They didn't let him shoot down there in Kentucky," joked head coach Bill Carmody.
Playing just his second game with Northwestern, Swopshire displayed his dynamic abilities. His performance included five three-pointers and six rebounds. Despite the pretty statistics, Carmody pointed to the downfall of his performance.
"He fills up the stat sheet," said Carmody. "Including turnovers."
Northwestern was in for a challenge against a feisty Delta Devils team which showed no quit.
The score was knotted at 58 past the midway point of the second half, and Northwestern was without Crawford still as he added his fourth foul. Meanwhile, MVSU guard Davon Usher was giving the Wildcats fits, scoring a game-high 35 points.
There was no loss in confidence for the Cats, and that stems from the leadership of Hearn.
"I've got faith in our guys," Hearn remarked.
The Wildcats punched back. Dave Sobolewski gave NU the lead with a layup. One minute later, he connected on a three-pointer, offering a cushion. With the margin cut to 64-60, Sobolewski reeled off four-straight points, then Swopshire added the dagger with a three-pointer.
"Every guy we have out on the floor is capable of puting the ball in the hole," said a confident Hearn.
Following the game, Carmody was flustered when pointing to Crawford's foul troubles. The forward played just 16 minutes, scoring four points. Carmody hopes to rely on his senior to produce each game.
"He's a good player," Carmody said of Crawford. "You want him out there. He wasn't able to play. That's an opportunity for some other guys."
The other guys delivered for Northwestern, helping it hold off the defiant Delta Devils.