Men’s Basketball: Last-second escape

Adam Fusfeld

Twelve minutes remained in the game, yet 34 turnovers already had been lost and 33 fouls already had been committed. The shot clocks had malfunctioned and delayed the action, and Northwestern’s leading scorer, junior forward Kevin Coble, had accumulated just six points.

It was a sloppy game.

But a pretty pass from sophomore guard Michael Thompson to Coble for a basket and the foul gave the Wildcats an 11-point lead.

Though that lead would vanish, and NU would never get the chance to breathe easy, Coble had flipped the switch. He finished with 19 points and stole an Indiana inbound pass with 5.2 seconds remaining to ice the Cats’ 77-75 victory.

“It’s a good thing he got it,” coach Bill Carmody said. “Because the last thing we said (out of the huddle) was, ‘Don’t go for the steal.'”

Thirty seconds earlier, Hoosiers guard Matt Roth nailed a 3-pointer to knot the score for the first time since the start of the second half. Carmody called a timeout, and NU (11-7, 3-5 Big Ten) inbounded the ball and wound down the clock to get the last shot. Senior guard Craig Moore took the ball at the top of the key, and just as he was about to make a move toward the basket, he was fouled.

Moore went to the line for two shots.

“I heard a chant, I started hearing [the Indiana fans] say ‘Air ball,'” said Moore, who was subject to the chant due to an earlier misfire. “I was like, ‘Just for that I’m going to make these, because that’s offensive to me.'”

He calmly swished both attempts.

The high scoring contest was anything but calm. The frenetic pace resulted in a total of 44 fouls and 41 turnovers, and both head coaches said they thought the game was as physical and as passionate a contest as they had ever seen.

“I haven’t coached forever,” Hoosiers coach Tom Crean said, “But I’ve coached long enough to know what the great games are for intensity. And that was certainly one of them.”

Though NU blew the lead late, it was Indiana (5-14, 0-7) that started out hot. Led by the accurate shooting of guard Devan Dumes, the team jumped out to an early 9-0 advantage. But even with only one Coble field goal the Cats were able to claw their way back and even the tally at halftime. Moore hit three 3s before the break, Thompson chipped in nine, and junior guard Jeremy Nash showed his rarely seen offensive skillset with seven first-half points.

The second half would prove to be a different story for Coble. After notching the three-point play – the basket marked the 1000th point of his NU career – he sank two 3s as well as a highly difficult shot fading away from the basket near the top of the key.

“The TV doesn’t do justice to him,” Crean said. “You see him make those plays on television, and you see him make those plays on tape, but you get into the game and it’s amazing, it really is.”

Eighteen games into the season, the Cats have begun to expect those heroics from their leading scorer. Carmody said he merely told Coble to “hang in there” after his quiet first half, and Nash was far from surprised by his teammate’s second-half eruption.

“You can always expect it from Kevin Coble,” he said. “He’s a natural scorer, he’s one of our big time scorers, and that’s what we expect from him, and he came up big for us.”

[email protected]