EVANSTON—Trailing by 15 points with less than 10 minutes to go, Northwestern appeared headed for a third straight loss.The players, though, weren’t ready to accept that fate.Vic Law had 25 points, A.J. Turner added a career-high 24 and the Wildcats used a run of 25 straight points to rally for a 75-68 victory over DePaul on Saturday.Dererk Pardon had 10 points and eight rebounds as the Wildcats (7-3) snapped a two-game losing streak.Turner was 8 for 13 from the field, including 6 for 10 on 3-pointers,enough for the media covering that game to vote him the Waldo Fisher-Frank McGrath MVPAward, and Law was 9 for 9 from the free-throw line as Northwestern won for the fourth straight time in the annual matchup of Chicago-area schools.
”Our guys just refused to say, `It’s not our day,”’ Wildcats coach Chris Collins said. They kept fighting. DePaul was playing well. We just dug down really deep to get the game.”
Femi Olujobi had 22 points and Devin Gage added 17 as DePaul (5-2) had a two-game winning streak end.The Blue Demons had a 57-42 advantage – its biggest of the game – with just under 10 minutes remaining before the game changed dramatically.
”For us, it was a little bit of an opportunity lost,” DePaul coach Dave Leitao said. ”We’ve got to learn. I thought we lost our way mentally and stopped doing the things that had gotten us to the point in the game where we’re up by double figures.For a large part of the game we were really aggressive and then we took our foot off the gas pedal, emotionally, and a very good team took advantage of it.”
DePaul was held scoreless for 7:09 as the Wildcats turned the 15-point deficit into a 67-57 lead with three minutes to play.
”I think it was our defense,” said Turner, who had 11 points during the run. ”In the first half, they were scoring pretty easily, they were getting easy transition buckets and those just kind of kill your team’s pride. I think we started locking up and that kind of led to us
making the comeback.”
It was a remarkable turnaround from the first 30 minutes.DePaul’s work on the defensive end set the tone early. The Blue Demons played an aggressive man-to-man and never let Northwestern develop much rhythm offensively. They also did a nice job of surrounding Pardon whenever he touched the ball in the paint.Pardon, who entered averaging 14.4 points, was held to three first-half points on 1-of-3 shooting.DePaul closed with a 9-2 run to take a 41-29 halftime lead.The Wildcats were 10 of 29 (34.5 percent) from the field in the first half, including 4 of 17 (23.5 percent) on 3-pointers.Northwestern began the second half with six straight points to cut the deficit in half, but DePaul quickly responded and stretched its advantage before falling apart late.Ryan Taylor hit a 3-pointer with just under five minutes to play to put NU on top 58-57 – its first lead of the game.The rebuilding Blue Demons are a work in progress, but there have been encouraging signs so far. Closing games, though, remains a huge problem. Earlier in the season, they blew a 68-60 advantage with two minutes left against Penn State before rallying to win in overtime.This game wrapped up a grueling stretch of seven games in 17 days. The Wildcats have a week off and certainly will enjoy it more following the late rally.Shortly after the game ended, Welsh-Ryan Arena was evacuated because of a small fire. ”I apologize,” Collins said. ”Our guys got so hot down the stretch, the fire alarms went off.”
Because of the evacuation, the postgame press conferences were held in Anderson Hall next door.Before Saturday, Turner was 5 for 29 (17.2 percent) on 3-pointers this season, but said he never considered taking fewer shots.
”As a shooter, you should never lose confidence,” he said. ”I was always high-spirited. I knew they weren’t falling, but the law of averages came true.”
DePaul hosts Chicago State on Wednesday night.NU is home to the same Cougars next Saturday.