SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas -- Northwestern proved it could win Friday night even if was only with 38 percent shooting from the field.
With Jared Swopshire contributing 15 points and five rebounds, the Wildcats took advantage of TCU's shooting 26.5 percent and pulled out a 55-31 victory in the South Padre Island Invitational.
The 31 points were the fewest allowed by the Wildcats since a 68-30 win over Oakland on Nov. 21, 1998.
"I thought we played well defensively," Wildcats coach Bill Carmody said. "They lost one of their key players earlier this year and they have a really good coach. This was our first road game this season and I thought it was really good. We played an OK first half and we made them guard us."
The second half started out a repeat of the first with Northwestern scoring, then TCU and the Horned Frogs not getting any stops to cut the deficit.
The Wildcats extended their 10-point halftime lead to 32-21 with eight points coming from four different players.
The Wildcats extended their lead to 23 points with a 16-2 run, including three points from Swopshire.
The Wildcats survived a six-minute field-goal drought to begin the second half. Yet TCU also struggled, going nine minutes without scoring, until Connell Crossland made a layup.
The Horned Frogs managed to match the Wildcats for the rest of the game, 8-8, but it was a case of too little too late by then.
"We competed for a half but we didn't make open shots," Horned Frogs coach Trent Johnson said. "We didn't put two complete halves together, but we did a decent job on the glass but we can't keep missing shots."
The Horned Frogs shot under 25 percent in the second half.
Northwestern took command from the start. It scored five quick points from Drew Crawford and Reggie Hearn to take an early five-point lead. TCU got to within 11-10, but Northwestern scored 11 straight points to take control of the game.
A three-pointer from Hearn, a jumper from Crawford, and eight points from Swopshirehelped the Wildcats take a 24-14 lead into halftime.
Swopshire led the Wildcats with 10 points in the first half, while Abron led the Horned Frogs with six points in the half.
Northwestern plays Illinois State in the championship game on Saturday.
"The Redbirds are a good team," Carmody said. "We have our work cut out for us and we'll have to focus but we'll celebrate tonight that's for sure."
NOTES: The Wildcats outscored the Horned Frogs 9-2 off turnovers in the first half. ... Team-leading scorer Jarvis Ray was held scoreless in the first half despite averaging 10.2 points a game this season. ... Both teams have shot abysmally with the Wildcats shooting 34.6 percent from the field while the Horned Frogs shot 27.6 percent. ... The Wildcats shot 25 percent on 3-pointers. ... TCU out-rebounded the Wildcats 22-14 in the first half.
Despite woeful shooting, NU runs past TCU
(Tribune illustration / April 17, 2012)