Cats win 1st game on last-chance shot (Men’s Basketball)

Scott Duncan

It was a tale of two halves.

Northwestern struggled through the first 20 minutes of the 2005-2006 season, breaking the 20-point mark just before the halftime buzzer.

In the second half, NU’s offense woke up to erase a seven-point halftime deficit in the first six minutes after the break.

NU and Lehigh traded leads 10 times from that point until an NU steal gave the Wildcats the ball with 34 seconds left and the game tied 56-56.

The Cats took a timeout and put the ball in the hands of their star – forward Vedran Vukusic.

With 12.8 seconds remaining, the senior knocked down a 20-footer to break the tie.

NU (1-0) hung on for a 61-59 win against Lehigh (0-1) in Sunday’s opening round of the Black Coaches Association Invitational in Laramie, Wyo.

“It wasn’t really a play,” Vukusic said of the tie-breaking shot. “The ball just came into my hands. The shot clock was winding down, so I took it myself.”

Vukusic started his final season at NU with 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting.

NU took its first lead of the game, 40-38, after a 3-pointer from junior center Vince Scott with 13:12 left in the second half.

Scott and junior guard Tim Doyle sparked the Wildcats comeback at the start the second half.

Doyle scored 14 points, and Scott added eight off the bench.

In the first game of the season, coach Bill Carmody used 10 players with junior Bernard Cote and freshmen Sterling Williams and Craig Moore playing their first minutes with NU.

Lehigh opened up an 18-7 lead in the first half. NU cut the lead to seven before the half.

The Cats shot 26 percent (6-for-23) from the field in the first half, while the Mountain Hawks converted 44 percent of their shots.

“We were jacking up threes rather than focusing on getting the ball inside and working for good shots,” Vukusic said.

After scoring 16 points in the first half, Lehigh guard Jose Olivero had just three points in the second half, a desperation 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left in the game. Kyle Neptune had 16 points before fouling out.

The Mountain Hawks were without senior guard Joe Knight, their top returning scorer.

The Cats will face Charlotte (1-0) in Monday’s semifinals. The 49ers defeated Coppin State 82-65 on Sunday.

“We aren’t happy with how the game went because we talked all preseason about coming out strong,” Vukusic said. “But we won. And it’s always great to start the season with a win..”

Reach Scott Duncan at [email protected]