Men’s Basketball: Demps, Olah spark Wildcats on Senior Day

Garrett Jochnau, Reporter

Men’s Basketball

Prior to Sunday’s 65-54 win over Nebraska, Northwestern honored senior center Alex Olah, senior guard Tre Demps and graduate center Joey van Zegeren on Senior Day before a packed NU crowd. Hours later, Welsh-Ryan Arena was again at its feet as Demps held the ball, closing out the Wildcats’ first 20-win regular season in program history.

And with the win, Olah and Demps — who accompanied the team through a coaching change and plenty of growing pains — capped off up-and-down regular seasons by exiting Welsh-Ryan Arena on a collective high note.

“(I) can’t say enough about Tre and Alex,” coach Chris Collins said. “Just love those two guys. … They’re a part of a core that will always be very special to me.”

The two used the game as a platform to place an exclamation point on the season. Olah finished with 19 points and eight rebounds, while Demps added 17 points and was the game’s second highest scorer behind his fellow senior.

From start to finish, it was the senior show. After the pregame festivities, Demps and Olah scored the team’s first 5 points, with Demps following up Thursday’s 19-point first half against Penn State with a 12-point opening period against the Cornhuskers.

“(Olah) and Tre got us off to a great start,” Collins said. “I thought it was going to have to be our young guys getting us off to a great start because of the emotions of senior night, but it flipped. The guys that got us off to our great start were our two older guys, and I’m just so happy for them.”

When Nebraska made its second half run, Olah stepped up, scoring 11 points and hitting a crucial jump shot late to quiet the Cornhuskers’ momentum.

And minutes later, the game came to a close, as NU made history and clinched a first round bye in the Big Ten Tournament as Demps waited out the clock.

Recently, the fifth year senior has been in a rhythm — one that serves as a far better manifestation of Demps’ legacy than his January slump.

And through the emotion, he closed out his final NU home game in vintage fashion.

“You just try to make it as normal as possible,” Demps said about his approach to the occasion. “Just stick to your routine, don’t do anything out of character. … It was just a great day.”

Olah too suffered a setback midseason when he was forced to miss six games with a foot injury. But he rebounded late in the season, and like Demps’, his final regular season ended on a high note.

Going into the Nebraska contest, Olah had scored in double figures in five straight games before assuming the role of distributor in Thursday’s win over Penn State.

And in front of his family, the 7-foot center contributed one of his best performances of the season.

The two will have the Big Ten Tournament and a potential postseason appearance to cement their legacies, but on Sunday, Demps and Olah gave NU fans one final show at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

“Just so happy for them, that they were able to play like this on their senior night, in front of their family, in front of our fans,” Collins said. “It just makes it a special end.”

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