By Greg Mroz
EVANSTON, Ill – The last time Northwestern won four consecutive games in Big Ten play, the Vietnam war was at its peak, “I’m A Believer” by the Monkees was the number one song on the Billboard Top 100 Chart, and Chris Collins wasn’t even born yet.
That year was 1967, but no longer is it the year that represents that Big Ten winning streak.
The Northwestern Wildcats upset the Indiana Hoosiers Wednesday night, 72-65, winning their fourth straight conference game.
Of the four wins during the streak, this one may have been the most complete performance.
“We are playing well, the guys are well, the guys are confident, and there’s nothing like winning.” Head coach Chris Collins said after the game.
Tre Demps lead Northwestern (14-14, 5-10 B1G) with 23 points on 8-for-12 shooting, while Alex Olah earned his second double-double in three games with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Freshman Vic Law finished with 14 points, making all three shots he attempted from beyond the arc.
We’re humble but we’re hungry,” Demps said. “We’re not satisfied with where we’re at — I think everyone bought in to fighting.”
The fight that Demps referred to wasn’t there early on the defensive end. Indiana went 8-for-12 from the three-point line in the first half, with junior guard Nick Zeisloft converting four to lead all Hoosiers in the first half with 12. Indiana (19-10, 9-7 B1G) was able to play well into the Northwestern zone defense, getting open looks from various spots around the perimeter. Northwestern kept up by turning the first half into a shootout, shooting 51.7 percent from the field.
Collins knew that the team that locked down on defense would be the one to claim victory.
“I said to the team at half time that whoever had an extended series of stops is going to win the game,” Collins said.
Indiana cooled off in the second half, going a stretch of 10:06 without a field goal. The Hoosiers went 3-for-17 from beyond the arc in the second half, going 2-for-15 until the under-2 second minute mark. After scoring at the 13:23 mark to cut the lead to 49-48 , Indiana did not score again until 3:17 left in the game. The Hoosiers put up a 6-0 run to make it 62-54 but the Wildcats made four consecutive free throws, 2 apiece from Demps and Olah to stretch the lead back to 66-54 with 1:33 left.
After each team scored two to tie the game at 42 early in the second half, Sanjay Lumpkin hit a three that gave Northwestern a 45-42 lead. Vic Law came back and hit his third three pointer to put the Wildcats up 48-43, but Troy Williams sank Indiana’s 10th three-pointer of the night on the next possession to make it 48-46 Northwestern near the 15-minute mark. With the score 49-48, Tre Demps hit a contested two, a fade-away three, an another contested two that put Northwestern up 56-48 with twelve minutes left.
With Northwestern’s lead stretched to 10 with under eight minutes left, the Wildcats continued to play good defense and prevent Indiana from getting any high percentage shot opportunities. A beautiful Bryant McIntosh pass to a backcutting Alex Olah put Northwestern up 62-48. Indiana countered with back to back threes to cut the Wildcat lead to 67-60, and then got a three point play from Troy Williams to get it to 69-63. After Tre Demps went 1-for-2 at the line on the ensuing possession, Williams came back down and scored again to make it 70-65. Alex Olah was fouled and made both shots that stretched the lead to seven and iced the game.
Indiana’s offense may have been their downfall in the second half, shooting 28 percent from the field after the break, but for head coach Tom Crean, allowing Tre Demps to take over is what caused the game to slip away.
“We did not do a good enough job in the second half on Tre Demps,” Crean said. “I’d like to tell you it’s a bunch of other things, its not. Tre Demps did a better job than we did.”
The Wildcats look to keep the ball rolling on Saturday in Champaign against Illinois as they aim for their fifth-straight conference win, and fifth overall. That’s certainly a far cry from two weeks ago when the Wildcats were 1-10 in conference play and searching for a direction.
“When you’re low, you’ve got to keep fighting,” Collins said. “You’ve got to stay the course. It’s been a good two weeks, but its far from where we want to be as a program.”