Men’s Basketball: Northwestern finally slays Michigan, pulls off remarkable Senior Night win


Nathan Richards/Daily Senior Staffer

Tre Demps skies toward the basket. The junior guard saved Northwestern on Tuesday night, nailing a game-tying 3 near the end of regulation and in the final seconds of the first overtime to keep the Wildcats alive in an eventual 82-78 double-overtime victory.

Khadrice Rollins, Reporter

Men’s Basketball

After last season’s blowout loss on Senior Night, the Wildcats decided to give the fans a show and sent the class of 2015 out in style.

Northwestern (15-15, 6-11 Big Ten) captured an 82-78 victory in a thrilling double-overtime contest against Michigan (14-15, 7-10) on Tuesday at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

It was the first time NU’s current seniors defeated the Wolverines, and the game left everyone flabbergasted in the aftermath.

“I’d love to be able to know what to say right now,” coach Chris Collins said. “But I’m still trying to figure out what happened.”

Last year’s script actually appeared correct early on, when Michigan used a 17-3 run to grab a 10-point lead it would maintain for most of the opening 20 minutes.

In the second half, it looked as if Michigan was preparing to run away with the game. With just over 17 minutes remaining, the Wolverines had extended their lead to 12, but NU would not let Michigan pull away. A 16-3 run, capped off by a layup by junior center Alex Olah put the Cats ahead for the first time since 13:54 left in the opening half.

Olah had a monster contest for the Cats, dropping 25 points and nabbing 12 boards in a tit-for-tat battle down the stretch. His 133 offensive rating for the contest was the highest he had posted in a month.

Despite Olah’s dominance, a 7-0 run sparked the Wolverines resurgence, and when Michigan hit free throws and freshman guard Bryant McIntosh turned the ball over late, it appeared the Cats were about to lose another heartbreaker.

But with 15.6 seconds left, Michigan sophomore guard Zak Irvin, who posted a game-high 28 points, missed the front end of a one-and-one and left the door open for NU, down only 3. Junior guard Tre Demps knocked down a deep step-back 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds remaining to tie it up and send the contest to overtime.

“My goal was to refuse the screen and create a little bit of space,” Demps said. “But he did a good job of jumping in front of me and I was fortunate enough to get just enough space to get it off.”

In the extra period, the Cats jumped out to an early lead, but with 1:48 remaining, Michigan junior guard Spike Albrecht hit a 3 to tie the game at 65. After an NU turnover, Michigan would knock down another 3-pointer to take the lead, and the Wolverines advantage would eventually be 6 with 16.3 seconds left.

Yet the Cats were not done.

Demps has earned a reputation for clutch play, evidenced by his go-ahead step-back jumper against Maryland. And the guard had been on fire of late, averaging 17.2 points per contest on 55 percent shooting over a five-game stretch.

But on Tuesday he outdid himself.

Demps nailed a contested 3, followed by a Michigan turnover to give NU the ball down 71-68 with 7.9 seconds left. Senior guard JerShon Cobb drove baseline and hit Demps in the corner for another 3 to tie the game, this time with 3.2 seconds left to send the game to a second overtime.

“A lot of people are going to talk about me hitting the shot on that one, but I think you have to talk about coach James and JerShon,” Demps said. “Coach James drawing up the play and JerShon making that pass.”

In the second extra period, Olah picked up 5 quick points to open things up for the perimeter players. After Irvin made a 3 to cut the Cats’ lead to 1, freshman forward Vic Law answered with a corner 3 of his own which sent Welsh-Ryan into a frenzy. Free throws from Demps and McIntosh closed out the 82-78 win for NU.

“Today was awesome,” Olah said. “The students just gave us so much energy and the crowd in general, it was great.”

Demps scored 20 points on the night, and Cobb, Law and freshman forward Scottie Lindsey posted double-figure scoring nights as well with 14, 11 and 10 apiece, respectively.

The Cats still have a chance to make a postseason tournament and with the Big Ten Tournament right around the corner, Collins is looking to make sure the team does not let this game, or any other affect the players too much.

“It’s just like the lows,” Collins said. “When you get drilled at Illinois the other night, that’s a low. And you got to go into the locker room and say, ‘Hey we got a game on Tuesday.’ And now we have an amazing high … We can’t get too high when things are going great, and you can’t get too low when things are not going well.”

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