Having already erased a pair of double-digit deficits, Northwestern looked to be on the verge of a second program-building win in as many nights.
But with a one-point lead in the game's final minute, the Wildcats threw away an inbounds pass, turning the ball over to Notre Dame, which turned it into a go-ahead three-point play and held on to hand Northwestern a 70-66 loss Tuesday night in Brooklyn.
The Cats fell behind the Irish, 50-40, in the opening minutes of the second half, but that gap was erased as Northwestern clamped down on defense and got some clutch 3-point shooting from Nathan Taphorn and others. Three-point shots from Scottie Lindsey, Vic Law and a pair from Taphorn cut Notre Dame's lead to one, 55-54. And about four minutes later, a pair of Isiah Brown free throws tied the game at 58, and Taphorn and Bryant McIntosh followed with back-to-back 3s to complete a 10-0 run and put the Cats ahead by six with six minutes to play.
Notre Dame punched back with seven straight points to move back ahead, but a McIntosh basket returned the favor for Northwestern, which led by a point, 66-65 with 41 seconds to play. The Irish missed their opportunity at the other end, and Dererk Pardon rebounded the ball for the Cats, getting immediately fouled. But the ensuing inbounds pass was thrown away by Northwestern — a turnover made even more painful by the fact that the Cats had two timeouts they could've spent — and resulted in Matt Farrell's highlight-reel layup. When he added the free throw to complete the three-point play, Notre Dame had a two-point lead with 14 seconds left. McIntosh's contested jumper was missed at the other end, and the Irish added two more free throws to put the game on ice.
It was a brutal way to lose for Northwestern, which battled to erase not just that 10-point gap in the second half but a 10-point gap in the first half, as well. The Cats trailed, 31-21, only to use a 10-4 run to get that down to a manageable margin, trailing by just six at halftime.
The Cats shot 44.4 percent on the night, going 11-for-19 from downtown. Northwestern also won the rebounding battle, 37-27, and got six blocks from Pardon. But Northwestern also turned the ball over 15 times, compared to just six giveaways by Notre Dame. And the Cats were just 7-for-8 from the free-throw line, while the Irish went 18-for-24.
Three Northwestern players accounted for most of the production. Lindsey had 11 points in the first half and finished with a team-high 18, connecting on all three of his 3-point attempts. Law finished with 14 points. And Taphorn scored 12 points, all coming on his four made 3-pointers.
The Cats dropped to 3-2 with the loss and failed to build on the program-boosting momentum that came from Monday night's win over a ranked Texas team. Northwestern next faces Bryant on Friday.