2018 Year in Review: Our top sports stories

January 1, 2019

2018 Year in Review

Northwestern’s rise in college athletics isn’t going unnoticed. Its athletes are stars on and off the field, leading to championship appearances and nationwide recognition. From lacrosse to basketball to football, check out our top sports stories from 2018.

Reggie Hearn

Photo by NBAE/Getty Images
Reggie Hearn plays for Team USA. Hearn was named the 2018 USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year.

When USA Basketball announced its 2018 USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year on Nov. 28, the award-winner did not fit the typical profile. He was not an NBA All-Star or an elite high school talent or former Conference Player of the Year in college. Instead, it was a former Northwestern walk-on. Read more here.

Tex Winter

Source: Northwestern Archives

As the buzzer rang at the end of the second half on Dec. 1, 1975, at McGaw Hall, Northwestern fans inside the arena exploded in excitement and flooded the floor. The Wildcats had just upset the defending NCAA Tournament runners-up and No. 6 Kentucky, 89-77, in the visitors’ first game of the season. And their coach was Tex Winter, who developed into an NBA legend after leaving the Wildcats. Read more here.

Sam and Alex Miller

Sam and Alex Miller — both linemen on Northwestern’s stalwart defensive front — had been rushing not toward an opposing quarterback but rather to a hospital in Houston, unsure if their younger brother, Ben, would live another day. Read more here.

Still Knocking

Daily file photo by Brian Lee
Students pack Ryan Field for Northwestern’s primetime game against Ohio State in October 2013.

The memories of “GameDay.” The numbers that show improvement over the years. Even the arguments that Kain Colter did convert that fourth-down quarterback sneak late in the fourth quarter. None of those change the simple fact: In many ways, the game has been remembered more for what it could’ve been than what it was. Read more here.

Shelby Fredericks

Daily file photo by Brian Meng
Shelby Fredericks eyes an opponent. Fredericks left Northwestern lacrosse with the most draw controls in program history.

Most days, Shelby Fredericks shined on the lacrosse field, lining up as one of the top draw specialists and attackers in the country. On a Saturday in April, she finished with nine assists and nine draw controls against Rutgers, on her way to setting the all-time Northwestern record for career draw controls.

Two days later, she took the literal stage, sitting on a chair with just a microphone and a guitar, performing two original songs for the first time at an open-mic night at Kafein, a coffee shop in Evanston. Read more here.

Student Athletes and Mental Health

Many student-athletes at Northwestern deal with a myriad of challenges, including injuries, academic struggles and the pressure to live up to expectations of a healthy body image. But an often-unspoken challenge, both at Northwestern and nationally, is coping with mental health issues. Read more here.

Clayton Thorson

Daily file photo by David Lee
Thorson warms up prior to Northwestern’s 2017 game at Wisconsin.

Thorson’s propensity for studying the game at an obsessive level started before he even got to Northwestern. While he was at Wheaton North High School, he spent countless hours working with Kent Graham — a former NFL quarterback and a fellow Wheaton North alum — and watching film whenever he could. Read more here.

Northwestern vs. Illinois on the recruiting paths

The Cats’ focus on recruiting locally is also evident from the outside. The program parrots on social media its “Homegrown” talent, a nod to players who prepped in Illinois and stayed close to home. Twenty of the 108 players on NU’s current roster list Illinois hometowns. Read more here.

NU and the Wooden Legacy

Daily file photo by Alison Albelda
Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser banter in front of a group of Northwestern students. PTI’s Welsh-Ryan broadcast — among other recent opportunities — have bolstered Northwestern’s prospects for future appearances on ESPN.

Ever since coach Chris Collins was hired in 2013, the Wildcats have been trying to get into a major 8-team tournament during Thanksgiving week, but they couldn’t find a match until this year’s Wooden Legacy. The journey to Fullerton, Calif. has been a long time coming: it began all the way back in 2015, when Lauten started having conversations with the Wooden Legacy’s organizers. Read more here.

Big Ten Championship

Behind 499 passing yards from Haskins, three turnovers by the Wildcats’ offense and a strong closing stretch that overwhelmed NU’s stirring third-quarter push, No. 6 Ohio State (12-1, 8-1 Big Ten) prevailed 45-24 over the upset-seeking No. 21 Cats (8-5, 8-1) in the Big Ten Championship game. Read more here.

Northwestern nearly upsets Michigan

Brian Meng/Daily Senior Staffer
Dererk Pardon gains position in the post. The senior center had 20 points during a December game against Michigan.

The last time Northwestern played against Michigan in Welsh-Ryan Arena, then-sophomore center Dererk Pardon hit the game-winning shot that essentially made the Wildcats a lock for the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately for NU, the Cats didn’t have the same luck Tuesday, losing 62-60 to the No. 5 Wolverines on a close call that came down to a missed shot from graduate guard Ryan Taylor. Read more here.