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Men’s Basketball: Loss to Michigan marks emotional end to positive season for Northwestern

Tre+Demps+muscles+his+way+past+a+defender.+The+senior+guard%27s+2015-16+season+was+filled+with+ups+and+downs%2C+but+his+21+points+Thursday+against+Michigan+helped+keep+Northwestern+in+the+game.+
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Men’s Basketball: Loss to Michigan marks emotional end to positive season for Northwestern

Tre Demps muscles his way past a defender. The senior guard's 2015-16 season was filled with ups and downs, but his 21 points Thursday against Michigan helped keep Northwestern in the game.

Tre Demps muscles his way past a defender. The senior guard's 2015-16 season was filled with ups and downs, but his 21 points Thursday against Michigan helped keep Northwestern in the game.

Sam Schumacher/The Daily Northwestern

Tre Demps muscles his way past a defender. The senior guard's 2015-16 season was filled with ups and downs, but his 21 points Thursday against Michigan helped keep Northwestern in the game.

Sam Schumacher/The Daily Northwestern

Sam Schumacher/The Daily Northwestern

Tre Demps muscles his way past a defender. The senior guard's 2015-16 season was filled with ups and downs, but his 21 points Thursday against Michigan helped keep Northwestern in the game.

Max Schuman, Assistant Sports Editor

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Men’s Basketball


INDIANAPOLIS — If it hadn’t hit them before they took the stage, coach Chris Collins and his two seniors, center Alex Olah and guard Tre Demps, realized at the postgame press conference what Thursday’s 72-70 overtime loss to Michigan meant.

Northwestern’s (20-12, 8-10 Big Ten) season, barring a miraculous judgment from the NIT selection committee, is likely over.

As tears welled in the eyes of all three Wildcats, facing questions about the bitter end to NU’s year, Collins pivoted to the bigger picture.

“We’ve gotten better, and I think that showed today” Collins said. “To have a great opportunity today to win against a really good Michigan team, I think it shows how far we’ve come.”

Zak Irvin’s game-winning pull-up dagger will be a lasting image of this season in the minds of fans, but so much more happened to bring smiles to NU supporters’ faces.

Take the growth of Bryant McIntosh. Few will forget the sophomore guard’s masterpiece against Wisconsin, leading NU to its best win of the season with 28 glorious points in front of the home fans. But McIntosh did so much more this season, showcasing all of the tools necessary — the rim attacks, the passing instincts, the creativity — to be the Cats’ offensive hub in future seasons.

Other parts of NU’s future showed they were capable of top-level performances. Freshman center Dererk Pardon stole the show with a remarkable 28-point, 12-rebound outing in a 81-72 victory at Nebraska. Freshman forward Aaron Falzon took the spotlight with a 6-for-9 performance from 3 in a resounding 77-52 win in Minnesota. Sophomore guard Scottie Lindsey caught fire with 18 points on 10 shots to carry the Cats past Illinois, 58-56.

Meanwhile, NU’s two senior cornerstones must grapple with the likely ends of their collegiate careers. But on Thursday, the duo put the finishing touches on seasons to be proud of.

Olah suffered a stress fracture in his foot before conference play started and looked nothing like himself when he returned. Yet there he was, pushing the Cats to overtime with 16 second-half points and a buzzer-beating putback in one final signature performance.

“I wanted to win this game, to keep playing,” Olah said. “It is the way it is.”

Demps started his final conference season in a dreadful shooting slump. But he bounced back in a big way with one of the best stretches of basketball in his career to end the season, and every single one of his team-leading 21 points against Michigan was a reminder of how a confident Demps can do incredible things.

The guard will have plenty of great moments to look back on this season, from his 30-point game at Iowa to his four consecutive 3s to sink the Fighting Illini. But the postgame press conference wasn’t the place for those memories, as a tearful Demps bid farewell to the program.

“We’ve been through so much, this university has done so much for me,” he said. “We just fell short.”

After a 13-1 start to the season, expectations changed for NU, and the team will end another year without that elusive NCAA Tournament berth. But the Cats won 20 regular-season games, something never before seen at NU, and demonstrated a meaningful step forward from last year.

So maybe the Cats fell short, as Demps said, in their season finale and of their postseason aspirations. But if this year is any indication, that could soon change. That’s as good a reason to wipe away the tears as any.

Email: maxschuman2018@u.northwestern.edu

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