And who could blame them?
After all they had watched as a 10-point
Cats lead late in the first half slowly and quite hideously
dissolved in front of their eyes because of a 9-points-in-19-minutes
And with less than two minutes remaining, the Illini, boosted by
a large group of orange-clad fans, looked pretty comfortable with
its 9-point lead.
But in a contest that never really made any sense it only figured
that this one would come down to one final desperate shot.
It got to that point thanks to consecutive 3-pointers by
Northwestern's Alex Marcotullio and John Shurna to close the gap,
and a layup by Drew Crawford with 15 seconds remaining that erased
If Jack Buck still were around he would not have believed what he
was seeing -- and he wouldn't have been alone.
With just six seconds left, Illinois' Myke Henry went to the line
to shoot a pair of free throws. He made the first but missed the
second and Crawford grabbed the rebound and headed downcourt for the
Unfortunately for him, waiting at the other end was 7-foot-1
center Meyers Leonard, who swatted away the shot and all hopes of a
miraculous Northwestern comeback as Illinois hung on for a 57-56
"Any win in the Big Ten is a good win, and it being a road win
and to find a way to win a close game is great," Illinois coach
Bruce Weber said. "The whole game we talked about playing with
emotion, playing with a motor.
"We had a great finish to the first half, which allowed us to
stay in the game, and then a great start of the second half -- we
haven't been good at either one of those things."
They sure were Wednesday, and Leonard's last-second swat was the
capper on a feel-good night for the Illini (13-3, 2-1), who snapped
a four-game road slide in conference play.
[to top of second column]
"Coach Weber took me off the line; he probably knew they were
going to go in transition, just go to the bucket -- so that was a
good move on his part," Leonard said. "This time I kind of read it,
knew (Crawford) was going to put it up, and got the block."
"It's a tough loss," Crawford said, "especially after making that
sort of a comeback at the end of the game."
Shurna carried Northwestern (11-4, 1-2) in the first half with 17
points but was shut out in the second until hitting a 3 in the final
"I challenged our guys to cover Shurna in the second half," Weber
said. "We did a great job."
"They played us pretty hard in the second half," Shurna admitted.
"But I just missed
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