Northwestern Wildcats head coach Chris Collins watches his players during a practice at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 ahead of their Thursday NCAA tournament first round game against Vanderbilt. But, alas, it wasn't to be.
Thanks to a mistake by Vanderbilt's Matthew Fisher-Davis all McIntosh had to do was hit from the line, punctuating a performance that led Northwestern to its first ever NCAA tournament victory. Without the foul, Northwestern still would have had the ball down one with a ton of time left on the clock. "I just didn't know the score", he admitted, when he saw Drew point at McIntosh. The Commodores were very much still in the game after Fisher-Davis' foul, and it was not the biggest turning point in the match.
While Fisher-Davis may not forgive himself soon, Drew did a good job of coming to his defense and supporting him at a low moment.
"I felt like my whole career I was destined to play in the NCAA tournament", McIntosh said after the game. The Commodores come into this game winners of seven of their last nine.
Northwestern forced LaChance to miss a 3 on the next possession and the Wildcats made (24-11) another free throw.
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After Riley LaChance's driving layup gave Vanderbilt a 66-65 lead with 17.8 seconds to go, Matthew Fisher-Davis inexplicably fouled Bryant McIntosh intentionally in the backcourt. "That's it", Fisher-Davis said. IL dared Northwestern to win with its backcourt, leaving only nine of its 56 shots for players 6'7 or taller. Northwestern will have the weird, un-quantifiable asset of March mojo on its side when it faces a streaking Vanderbilt team in the first round of the Big Dance.
However, Vanderbilt likely wouldn't have been in a position to make an error like that if it weren't for Fisher-Davis.
A game between two of the best academic schools in the NCAA tournament was incongruously ended by a mindless, mental gaffe that proves just how little difference there is between one shining moment and college basketball infamy. To blame Fisher-Davis for the loss discounts hundreds of others factors. For the season, Northwestern was more of an under team with 12-18-2 score, so the recent streak shows intentional odd setting adjustment. Never at any point did Northwestern wilt under pressure, and it offered a lovely example to Wildcats coach Chris Collins of how far this group of players has progressed. They're led by a pair of standout Junior guards in McIntosh and Lindsey, and Northwestern are one of the best passing teams in the nation. And with that victory dawned a new era in Northwestern basketball.
"We knew on the defensive end we were doing our jobs and, eventually, the shots were going to fall", Zach Collins said. "To see all the purple and the pride they had, and the strength and courage that they could give us as they went on a run late in the second half was a tremendous help".