Northwestern Can Hold Their Heads Up High, They Really Tried

SONG SELECTION:

“These Are Days”, by The 10,000 Maniacs

The day began with bountiful sunshine and over 70 degrees of mountain goodness in Salt Lake City.  At the SLC Center, there was a rally to get the alumni and fans fired up.

None bigger than the football coach who was the star linebacker of the 1995 Big Ten championship team which played in the Rose Bowl, Pat Fitzgerald which got the fans fired up by teaching them the true definition of his football team’s Wildcat Way:

“Go as hard as you can for as long as you can…It’s our job to stand up!”

What a season for Northwestern, falling valiantly to top seed Gonzaga 79-73 in the West Regional Second Round in Salt Lake City, Utah.  In the process, Gonzaga Head Coach Mark Few won his 500th career game at the school.

Seven three pointers by the Wildcats, led again once more by Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey brought them back from a 22 point deficit.  Twice in the final minutes, Northwestern got the lead down to five but it was not enough.

The turning point came with 4:57 left, with Zach Collins putting his hand out through the rim to get a block against Dererk Pardon.  Northwestern Head Coach Chris Collins motioned his displeasure rather wildly on the floor towards the referees, and therefore was immediately issued a technical foul.  At that point, the Wildcats could have trimmed the lead to three points.  Instead, the lead went back up to ten and the game was mostly out of reach–even though a few late buckets trimmed the lead to five inside the final minute of play.

“In my heart do I think if Dererk gets that call and we cut it to three (points), we have a great chance to win?  Yes…Referees are human beings.  They made the calls.  We have to live with them.”

Northwestern Head Coach Chris Collins on taking the high road after the simply magical season in culminating with the school’s first ever NCAA Tournament ended in disappointment.

The fight Chris Collins and his boys did not only during this game but during the entire season, they showed the nation and practically the world how fun it is to play this game.  In the end, Gonzaga made the key plays and if this was their toughest effort en route to the school’s first Final Four appearance, I am sure they can look back and collectively say, “Boy, that was definitely a scare.”

In the end, I was also very thrilled to see that sophomore Charlie Hall, the walk-on and son of Julia Louis-Dreyfus of Seinfeld fame got the chance to play in the final seconds.  His name appeared on the scorebook for only the seventh time in Northwestern’s magical 2016-2017 season.

They will only lose two seniors to graduation:  fifth year senior forward Sanjay Lumpkin who showed a lot of mental toughness (finished his final game with four points, four rebounds, and three steals) and Nate Taphorn who contributed six points on two treys off the bench in Saturday’s loss.

In terms of Chicago sports shortcomings, Northwestern will be mentioned in the same breath as their 1995 Big Ten football team, as well as the 1984 Chicago Cubs and 1983 Chicago White Sox–two baseball teams which had really magical regular seasons but it all came crashing down in the playoffs.

No question about it–Northwestern players, fans, and alumni can all hold their heads up high.  They held themselves in very high regard and played the game the way it is supposed to be played.

Maybe in the future, the Wildcats will get their shot at a Sweet 16 berth.  It just was not meant to be in 2017.

With Welsh-Ryan Arena being dominated by construction crews, it is Rosemont bound next November, I say.

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