After missing all of last season due to suspension, Northwestern guard JerShon Cobb ranked second on the team in scoring and assists, averaging 12.2 points and 2.3 assists to go along with 4.8 rebounds per game. And in the five games prior to getting injured in a loss at Ohio State on February 19, Cobb averaged 16.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.
Cobb’s been a valuable player for first-year head coach Chris Collins but he’d been dealing with foot and knee issues, and on Thursday Collins announced that his guard would not play again this season.
With Cobb out of the lineup in Saturday’s 61-56 loss to Indiana, Collins inserted junior guard Dave Sobolewski into the starting lineup. Sobolewski, averaging 5.0 points and a team-best 2.5 assists per game this season, accounted for just two points and one assist in 18 minutes of action.
Without Cobb even more will be asked of leading scorer Drew Crawford and guard Trey Demps, with the former shooting 2-for-10 in Saturday’s loss to Indiana. A positive to be taken from that result was the play of Alex Olah, who contributed 17 points and 11 rebounds in 39 minutes of action.
Northwestern has never reached the NCAA tournament. Never. They’ve come close on a few occasions, but the Wildcat faithful have never seen their team’s name show up on television when the brackets are announced. That’s the task that first-year head coach Chris Collins is faced with, to strengthen the program to the point where it can not only be in the conversation for an NCAA tournament bid but ultimately know that they’ll be playing in the Big Dance.
Accomplishing said feat will be difficult this season given the Wildcats’ standing within the Big Ten, but in fifth-year senior Drew Crawford the new head coach has a piece most new hires aren’t fortunate to have at their disposal. And after playing in just ten games last season due to a shoulder injury, Crawford showed no signs of rust in the Wildcats’ 72-55 victory over Eastern Illinois as he accounted for 25 points and 11 rebounds.
Crawford, who was a third-team All-Big Ten selection in 2011-12, gives Northwestern an offensive option who can shoulder much of the scoring load and that was something they sorely lacked last season. But Crawford wasn’t the only Northwestern player to perform well after a long absence from the court Saturday, as JerShon Cobb tallied eight points and a game-high eight assists in his first game action since the 2011-12 season. Cobb missed all of last year for academic reasons, and his return gives the Wildcats another versatile (and experienced) option on the perimeter.
As a team Northwestern assisted on 16 of its 20 made field goals, and a high assist rate will need to be the Wildcats’ calling card if they’re to improve on last season’s 13-19 record. We’ll learn a lot more about Northwestern next week when they visit Stanford, with the Cardinal having some talented options (Dwight Powell, Chasson Randle and Josh Huestis being three) who will prove far more formidable than Eastern Illinois.
Last season such a contest may have been a recipe for disaster, but the return of both Crawford and Cobb will help matters as Collins looks to take the Northwestern program to a level it has yet to reach.
Friday evening, Northwestern announced that junior guard JerShon Cobb would miss the entire 2012-2013 season for violations of team policy.
“There are standards that each student-athlete is expected to uphold,” said Northwestern coach Bill Carmody in a statement. “JerShon has our complete support as he works to fulfill those expectations and we look forward to having him rejoin the program in a full capacity in the future.”
The press release also stated Cobb is still enrolled at Northwestern and will maintain two years of eligibility.
The Wildcats are still in search of the program’s first bid to the NCAA Tournament and it won’t get easier missing Cobb for the entire season.
The 6-foot-5 Cobb averaged 7.1 points per game for Northwestern in 21 games. Cobb would have had a bigger role in this year’s team, after losing John Shurna. Without Shurna and Cobb, the Wildcats still return three of the four leading scorers from a season ago – Drew Crawford (16.1), Dave Sobolewski (8.3), and Reggie Hearn (7.4).
Northwestern also adds Louisville-transfer, Jared Swoopshire, who will use his last year of eligibility this season.
The Wildcats were on the bubble last season, but had to settle for the NIT. Northwestern finished 19-14, before falling to Washington in the second round of the NIT.
Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne