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Northwestern holds off Purdue in double OT for 63-60 win

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Updated: January 22, 2014 12:21AM



Plenty of criticism can be lobbed at this Northwestern team. The Wildcats’ offense is bad on its best day and unbearable on its worst.

But NU is giving spectators great theater. And the Wildcats’ play in the last two weeks, specifically their outstanding defense, has made their early-season struggles look like growing pains.

The latest chapter in NU’s saga was a 63-60 double-overtime victory against Purdue in which it didn’t lead until the second overtime.

‘‘We just hung in there,’’ Wildcats coach Chris Collins said. ‘‘I don’t know how better to describe it.
Everyone knows we have a hard time scoring; that’s not a secret. That’s probably not going to change. The games are battles, and our guys are learning how to win those kind of games.’’

The game featured foul-outs, an injury and what are becoming regular late-game heroics from NU guard Tre Demps. It even left members of the normally mild-mannered Wildcats administration jumping up and down in their seats.

NU starting center Alex Olah fouled out with 2:45 left in regulation, and backup Nikola Cerina fouled out with 4:18 left in the
second overtime.

That forced Collins to go small, reinserting guard JerShon Cobb after he had left the game in the first overtime because of cramps. Cobb was the player who had made a runner with 31.3 seconds left in regulation to tie the score at 46.

Demps scored 10 of his 19 points in the two overtimes, and Drew Crawford, who played all 50 minutes, sealed the victory by blocking a potential tying three-pointer as time expired. He also scored 19 points.

This was only one game in a two-week stretch that has featured more ups and downs than a network teen drama. But the Wildcats (10-10, 3-4) have gone from a team that lost to DePaul on a buzzer-beater Dec. 27 to one that wins close conference games.

‘‘In past games, we were showing effort, we were fighting, but we were kind of having lapses where we’d give up a big run or we’d kind of lay back a little bit,’’ Crawford said. ‘‘I think that’s really what we’re changing.’’

But Collins said it best: ‘‘I don’t know what the analytics say, I just know we won.’’

And that’s something that’s tough to criticize.

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen



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