SALT LAKE CITY - Basketball games have a amusing tendency to hinge on a single moment.
NU's Barret Benson appeared to shove Johnathan Williams while setting a screen with 7:36 left in the game and the Bulldogs still holding a 63-52 lead. On Thursday, the 'Cats learned what it really means to "survive and advance" when they squeaked by Vanderbilt.
For basically ever, Northwestern has been cursed with being unable to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. But just when it looked like they were going to cut the lead even further, Derek Pardon's dunk attempt was blocked by Zach Collins.
"I don't know if my hand was possibly in the rim". That places a focus on Notre Dame junior point guard Matt Farrell, who has gone 16 consecutive games without committing more than three turnovers. Notre Dame is the only team to reach the Elite Eight the last two NCAA tournaments and I expect them to get to the second weekend. Bryant McIntosh led the 'Cats with seven points at intermission. The came out aggressive, and showed poise on the defensive end with two steals outscoring Gonzaga 9-3 with Guard/Forward Sanjay Lumpkin breakaway throw down as exclamation point in the process forcing Gonzaga to call a time out trailing 44-29 with 16:05 remaining.
Gonzaga coach Mark Few said the second half non-call was a part of several "big plays" in the second half and he "wouldn't put it all on the technical". Instead, he was hit with a technical.
"If I see a guy from another team put his hand through the rim and block a shot, I'm going to react to it if the play isn't called", Collins said. "I'm a human being".
You might be thinking, "I'm not suer it's legal to stick your arm through the rim to block a shot".
Moderators owned up to the missed call in a statement after the game and said this should have resulted in a basket for Northwestern. They became the lovable group from outside of Chicago with famous alumni and more famous parents, but they were, up to this point, the team with no true basketball legacy or much of a history. With just under five minutes remaining, and the Wildcats down by just five, a blown call seemed to swing the momentum significantly. The team nor the fans hadn't been here before and they soaked up every second of it, filling Vivint Arena with purple during the first and second round.
Chris Collins was right.
"It's an honest mistake", he said. They're here for a reason - because they're outstanding officials. After his meltdown that followed an official call that went against the Wildcats, he made his way on CBS more than Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, the actress whose son Charlie Hall is a member of the Northwestern team. A Pardon basket would have cut Northwestern's deficit to three points with 4:57 to go in regulation. "And look, there's a lot of basketball to be played, but I do believe in my heart that if that's called correctly we would've had a great chance to win".
"We don't win that game without Tillie", said Collins.