Men’s Basketball: Northwestern can’t recreate late-game magic, drops season finale to No. 16 Purdue


Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Sophomore forward Vic Law peers around Purdue’s Dakota Mathias. Law scored just 4 points in Northwestern’s loss to Purdue.

Max Gelman, Reporter

Men’s Basketball

In the final game before Welsh-Ryan Arena undergoes a full renovation, and in front of possibly the most electric crowd the building’s history, the Wildcats came up just short of sending out the court on a high note.

Despite playing close with Purdue (25-6, 14-4 Big Ten) all afternoon, Northwestern (21-10, 10-8) couldn’t complete the comeback in its season finale as it fell 69-65 to the Boilermakers. Though they came within one possession of tying, the Cats missed four potential game-tying 3-point shots in the final 3:36 of the game.

“It was a great college basketball game,” coach Chris Collins said. “The atmosphere, the level of play, two really good teams. It just came down to a few shots here and there.”

With half a minute left, the Cats drew up a play to give senior forward Nathan Taphorn, one of the heroes from the Cats’ miracle buzzer-beating win over Michigan on Wednesday, the opportunity to tie the game. The play worked, but Taphorn airballed the 3-point shot after sneaking out for an open look.

“Every time we had a chance to have that momentum-changing shot, we weren’t able to knock it down,” Collins said.

The teams finished a combined 0-for-19 from beyond the arc in the second half, including an 0-for-10 line from NU. Junior guard Bryant McIntosh said the “highs and lows are rough right now” for Taphorn, especially after his memorable full-court heave Wednesday night.

“One thing you can take from (that) is how hard it is to come off the bench and knock down a shot, especially when you’re cold,” McIntosh said. “I know he’s upset … but we believe in him. I thought when we drew it up it was a great play — we executed it perfectly, and he just came up short.”

In addition to Taphorn’s miss, sophomore forward Vic Law and junior guard Scottie Lindsey combined to clank the other three would-be game-tying 3-pointers off the rim.

Evan as Law and Lindsey struggled, McIntosh, sophomore center Dererk Pardon and senior forward Sanjay Lumpkin shined. McIntosh led the Cats with 25 points, while Pardon held his own against Purdue superstar Caleb Swanigan and Lumpkin went a perfect 5-for-5 from the field on his Senior Day.

“We knew coming into this game the kind of team they were, we knew what they did to us when we went to Purdue,” Lumpkin said, referencing Purdue’s 80-59 win over NU in February. “We just wanted to do our do our best, play as hard as we could and send out Welsh-Ryan the right way.”

Coming just days after the Cats’ last-second win over Michigan, Sunday’s loss didn’t hurt their NCAA Tournament chances — where most project them for an 8 or 9 seed — as much as losing to a bottom-tier team might have. A win, however, would have increased NU’s shot at obtaining a 7 seed, removing the possibility of facing a regional No. 1 should it win its first game.

But before the Cats set their sights on the first Big Dance in program history, they will travel to Washington, D.C., for the Big Ten Tournament. NU’s loss means it earned the No. 6 seed and will face the winner of the game between the 11 and 14 seeds.

“We don’t take anything for granted, and we don’t feel that our ticket is punched until we see it on Sunday,” McIntosh said. “Right now we just have to focus and try to win a Big Ten championship.”

Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story misstated Purdue’s conference record. The Boilermakers are 14-4 in Big Ten play. The Daily regrets the error.

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