Men’s Basketball: Northwestern was just a last-second shot away from an upset


Alison Albelda/Daily Senior Staffer

Vic Law gets his shot blocked. He scored 24 points in Saturday’s loss to Wisconsin.

Charlie Goldsmith, Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

Northwestern had run this play before, but the other time the Wildcats had used it has been buried in a forgettable season.

Maybe NU drew it up in the second half sometime against Ohio State, a game the Cats lost by 14. Or maybe it was hidden somewhere in losses to Penn State or Nebraska.

But unlike the mysterious “other times” this play was used before Saturday, junior forward Aaron Falzon had a shot that actually mattered — an open three from the right wing with the game in the balance and four seconds to go against Wisconsin.

After calling a timeout with NU down three points against the No. 22 Badgers, Falzon had a chance to tie the game and deliver the best late game heroics so far in the new Welsh-Ryan Arena.

In a game played in front of a packed arena and in front of a crowd that made the last ten shots feel like a tournament berth was at stake, NU was close to upsetting the team with a definite spot in the field of 64 and the best big man in the country.

But the shot didn’t fall and the season continues to fall apart. The Cats (12-15, 3-13 Big Ten) lost 69-64 to Wisconsin (19-8, 11-5) and fell to last place in the Big Ten.

“If I had to draw it up again I’d want Aaron Falzon to shoot it,” assistant coach Brian James told The Daily, after drawing up the final play in the last huddle of the game. “That’s all you can hope for, that a player you have confidence in gets a clean look at the basket. Aaron felt like he should have made the shot.”

Before Falzon’s miss, NU was in a back-and-forth affair that featured some of the best shot-making the team has displayed in conference play. Senior forward Vic Law finished with a game-high 24 points and made four jump shots in the final 8 minutes to keep the team in the game.

Senior center Dererk Pardon added 21 points against Badgers center Ethan Happ, while holding the two-time All Big Ten player to only 14 points. After scoring fewer than 60 points in each of the last three games, the Cats’ two seniors nearly led the team to what likely would have been its most memorable win of the year.

“Law and Pardon did a really good job tonight,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “They played like the all-conference type performers that they are. Fortunately we had enough on the other end offensively to be able to match that.”

After Pardon made a layup to narrow NU’s deficit to one point with 2:28 to play, the Cats didn’t make a field goal the rest of the way. On Wisconsin’s next possession, guard Brad Davison made a jump-shot the teased the rim before dropping in off the third bounce, and down three points, NU didn’t go for the tie until Falzon’s shot with four seconds left.

With four games remaining in the regular season, the Cats are the only Big Ten team with three wins in conference play.

“I’m down about tonight’s game but I’m not down about how we played,” coach Chris Collins said. “We just weren’t able to get over the hump. You’re not always worthy of winning, but I thought tonight we were. And that’s why I’m upset for my guys.”

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