Men’s Basketball: Wildcats narrowly escape Elon in overtime

Jesse Kramer, Reporter


Elon (1-2) led most of the way, but once again Northwestern (4-0) used a late spurt to squeak away Saturday with another non-conference victory. The Wildcats finished regulation on an 8-0 run to force overtime and defeated the Phoenix 68-67 after the extra period.

NU trailed 67-62 in overtime, but junior guard Tre Demps found sophomore forward Sanjay Lumpkin for a bucket at the rim to start a 6-0 run. For the second game in a row, Demps nailed the game-winner with a jumper from the left elbow.

“It gives you a little bit of mojo,” Demps said of having hit a game-winner just two days earlier. “But at the end of the day you know you have a whole other game to play. It’s just one shot. (Elon’s Kevin Blake) forced me to take a tough one. I was fortunate enough to hit it.”

In addition to scoring a team-high 21 points, Demps also dished out four assists without turning over the ball.

The Phoenix had a chance to record the upset on their final possession. Inbounding from the baseline with 5.3 seconds left, the Phoenix ran an isolation for Elijah Bryant at the elbow. But NU freshman forward Vic Law locked him down and forced a miss.

“I knew he was their best playmaker off the ball,” Law said. “I probably did a bad job letting him catch it too low. But he was trying to draw a foul, and I tipped it. It was a great play call to set him up at the elbow. I’m just glad he missed it.”

Law had the best game of his young career, posting personal records of 16 points and two blocks.

NU fell behind 19-9 in the first half, but a 10-0 run evened the score. Demps bookended the spurt with a 3-pointer and a fastbreak layup off a pretty pass from freshman guard Bryant McIntosh.

Elon got the final say in the first half with Bryant’s jumper putting the Phoenix ahead 29-27 at the break.

The Cats came out slow in the second half, once again falling behind by 10 points at 39-29. Coach Chris Collins went to a four-freshman lineup that locked down on defense, and freshman guard Johnnie Vassar’s first-career bucket sparked another NU run that cut the lead to two points.

Freshman forward Gavin Skelly also saw some crucial minutes, and he delivered. In addition to four points, five rebounds and three blocks, Collins said Skelly also brought great energy.

“(Vassar and Skelly) came in and brought pop,” Demps said. “When they came in, you could just tell a difference.”

Despite being on the road against a Big Ten team, Elon did not crumble. Guard Tanner Samson drilled back-to-back 3-pointers to quiet the Welsh-Ryan Arena crowd.

Samson led the Phoenix with a game-high 24 points and shot 8-for-13 from beyond the arc.

The Cats still trailed 61-53 with 3:51 remaining. Then, just like in Thursday’s win against North Florida, NU went on a late run to avoid defeat.

Demps started the spurt by draining a 3-pointer. McIntosh capped it off with an open layup off a feed from junior center Alex Olah. The Cats had a chance to win in regulation, but Demps’ foul-line jumper drew front iron

Olah once again struggled offensively, but he had his best game of the season on the glass. The 7-footer grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds.

“In order for us to be a good team, we need him to be a solid presence inside,” Collins said.

However, Olah’s offensive struggles remain troubling. He scored just 5 points on 1-for-3 field-goal shooting and committed three turnovers.

After posting 21 points in the season opener, Olah averaged just 5 points in his last three games while shooting 27.3 percent from the field.

“I’m just surprised he’s been pretty tentative,” Collins said. “I don’t expect him to play perfect. But I’d like him to be more aggressive. He’s a little reluctant to go up strong around the basket.”

The Cats now head to the Cancun Challenge, where they will face Miami (Ohio) on Tuesday and then either Northern Iowa or Virginia Tech on Wednesday.

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