When Iowa junior Jarrod Uthoff buried a crazy three-point shot to force overtime against Northwestern, it reminded Wildcat fans just how frustrating this season has been.
It felt like the Michigan State game. And the Illinois game. And the Ohio State game. And the Maryland…okay, so you get the idea.
The point is, the ‘Cats have had their hearts broken a lot this season. But it didn’t happen on Sunday at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Northwestern beat Iowa 66-61 in overtime in a game that was all about redemption for the Wildcats. It’s their first win since Dec. 30 against Rutgers and it restores some faith in a program that many feared had lost its way.
“Today was a special win,” head coach Chris Collins said. “We haven’t had that feeling in a long time, to be able to jump around and enjoy all this hard work.”
The game began as the Bryant McIntosh show for Northwestern, with the freshman point guard scoring the first seven points of the game for the ‘Cats.
But it wouldn’t take long for McIntosh to get his teammates involved, with Scottie Lindsey and Dave Sobolewski both turning in strong performances in the first half. The ‘Cats were dialed in from long distance, shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc and stifling Iowa on defense with a 2-3 zone that looked better than it has all year.
Tre Demps played with the same amount of energy he’s brought every game this season, but for once, the entire team matched his intensity. Any talk of Collins having lost the locker room was to put to bed on Sunday afternoon.
Several players were big contributors off the bench. Gavin Skelly turned in his best performance of the season, coming in for Alex Olah and immediately making an impact.
“His minutes early in the second half after Olah got a third foul really uplifted us,” Collins said. “He got a stick-back and he blocked a shot.”
Scottie Lindsey also didn’t get the start, but after Vic Law got into foul trouble early, Lindsey received big minutes off the bench and took advantage. He was deadly from long range and played with composure in a game that would go right down to the wire.
The ‘Cats and Hawkeyes would trade baskets down the stretch, as neither team managed to pull away in the final minutes. But when Demps buried a three late in the game, it looked like the ‘Cats would be able to pull it out in regulation.
But Uthoff had other ideas. After his three-pointer sent the game into OT, Northwestern seemed destined for another crushing loss.
In overtime, the ‘Cats gave Iowa every opportunity to steal another one from right under their nose. Even after Demps and Lindsey made a few clutch buckets to give Northwestern the lead, the ‘Cats still had to hit their free throws in order to pull out the win.
But when they did, you could feel the relief from Welsh-Ryan Arena to Michigan Avenue.
It’s only the ‘Cats' second conference win of the year. With six games left in 2015, they currently sit at 11-14 (2-10) and near the bottom of the Big Ten conference. But none of that seemed to matter to a Northwestern team that was playing for much more than just this season.
Collins said the ‘Cats mindset coming into the game was a big reason they were able to compete and get the victory.
“Forget about what our record is,” Collins said.” We got a month left of this season, let’ start fresh, let’s rally around some things that we can do well, and let’s regain our spirit and fight."