Northwestern was up to its new tricks again at No. 14 Wisconsin on Wednesday night.
Packing their stout defense, the Wildcats shocked the Badgers 65-56. It was their first victory at the Kohl Center, where they had lost all 13 previous trips. It was their first win in Madison, Wis., since Feb. 21, 1996, at the old Wisconsin Field House.
“[It was] our defense,’’ first-year coach Chris Collins said after NU held Wisconsin, a 47-percent-shooting team, to a 26-percent night. “I know how hard it is to win in here. I know coach [Bo] Ryan’s record in here. When you can come in here and win, it shows how tough a group you have. We’ve become a really tough team.’’
Northwestern (11-11, 4-5 Big Ten) won for the fourth time in six games. All five of its league losses have come against teams currently in the top 25. In its final nine conference games, NU might see only one or two ranked teams.
Wisconsin (17-4, 4-4) lost for the fourth time in five games.
Drew Crawford, who poured in a season-high 30 points on 10-for-15 shooting and added eight rebounds, led an offense that also got 10 points apiece from JerShon Cobb and Tre Demps.
“Drew Crawford was a star tonight,’’ Collins said. “He did what a star senior should do on the road.’’
Crawford celebrated warmly with his teammates after the victory.
“It’s like Wisconsin has had our number my whole career,’’ Crawford said. “For us to band together as a team and play like we did, it’s a big win, a great feeling.’’
A three-pointer by Crawford pulled NU into a 34-34 tie with 11:38 left. That ignited an 18-3 surge that gave the Cats a 49-37 lead and left the Badgers flustered.
Northwestern expanded its lead to 54-39 with 3:19 left. Wisconsin missed 15 consecutive shots before Sam Dekker made a transition layup with 2:47 left.
Wisconsin had shot 55 percent when it routed the Wildcats 76-49 in Evanston on Jan. 2.