Big Ten

Between a missed goaltend and Chris Collins' technical foul, late sequence proves costly for Northwestern

Between a missed goaltend and Chris Collins' technical foul, late sequence proves costly for Northwestern

SALT LAKE CITY — Like any college basketball coach, Chris Collins can show a lot of emotion toward officials during a game.

But late in Saturday's NCAA tournament matchup with Gonzaga, Collins saw a Gonzaga defender stick his arm through the basket to block a shot and heard no whistle, prompting a special kind of reaction.

Collins ran out on to the court while play was going on and started screaming at the official, earning himself a technical foul in the process.

"I wasn't trying to get a technical," Collins said after the game ended in a 79-73 loss for Northwestern and the team's elimination from the NCAA tournament. "I saw someone go through the rim and block a shot. I've been playing basketball since I was five years old. To me that's a goaltend. And I saw it. So the game kept going on, I got excited. I wasn't doing anything other than reacting to something that I saw blatantly."

Collins took tons of heat on social media for what ended up a pretty costly technical foul.

Northwestern had scored six straight to cut what had at one point been a 20-point second-half deficit all the way down to five. The pro-Cats crowd was going nuts, cranking up the volume as all the momentum was on Northwestern's side. But the missed goaltend plus the two free throws Gonzaga hit off the technical foul turned what could've been a three-point game into a seven-point game, and the Bulldogs never led by fewer than five the remainder of the game.

"It was disappointing because we were still in the game," Northwestern point guard Bryant McIntosh said. "You don't fault him for it. It was a missed call. Looking back, I understand it. He did, he lost his mind. You can't fault him for it. But it was just, 'No, we're in the game, don't,' but it's part of it. You can't fault him because he's standing up for us at the end of the day. Can't be too upset with that."

The NCAA released a statement after the game admitting that the officials missed the goaltend, not that there needed to be official messaging for people to know that.

And while the sequence came at a critical juncture, with the Cats making a huge run to erase a gargantuan lead, it would still be foolish to suggest that it was what determined the outcome.

Northwestern was abysmal on the offensive end in the first half, trailing by as many as 22 during the opening 20 minutes and by 18 at halftime. The best way to avoid the game turning on one late sequence would've been to not have dug such a deep hole in the first place.

But, yes, it's also not difficult to imagine the game ending differently had the missed call and the technical foul not happened.

"I thought we were in a great position, and I really felt if we got that bucket to cut it to three, there was four minutes to go, the crowd was into it, I thought we were in a great rhythm, we had a lot of momentum. I thought we were going to win, I really did, all the way until the last minute," Collins said. "I really thought our guys were going to find a way because that's the way we've been all year."

Despite mocking a shocked face throughout a reading of the NCAA's statement during his postgame press conference, Collins also said that he had to live with the calls — and the lack of calls — made by the officials, even if he wasn't quite through with his sarcasm.

"It's a very easy call, in my opinion. But it's an honest mistake," Collins said. "Referees are human beings, they're here for a reason, because they're outstanding officials. They made the calls. We have to live with them.

"They made the calls. It is what it is. They issued a statement. I appreciate the apology. It makes me feel great."

Pat Fitzgerald, Lovie Smith in top 10 of an intriguing college coach list

Pat Fitzgerald, Lovie Smith in top 10 of an intriguing college coach list

Northwestern and Illinois’ college football programs are ranked in the top 10 this year.

Kind of.

One esteemed name in the college football ranks has placed Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald atop the list of the all-time greatest college coaches…ranked as players. Illini coach Lovie Smith ranks at No. 10.

Rich Cirminiello, Director of College Awards for the Maxwell Football Club, compiled the list and he is an excellent follow on Twitter. He has several other noteworthy lists of interest, including the top college football players who are now coaches in the NFL. Psst…spoiler alert: several local connections are on that particular list as well, including Saints head coach Sean Payton (QB, Eastern Illinois) and Ron Rivera (LB, California).

But back to Coach Fitz, who bleeds purple and has emphatically put the NU football program on the map since the mid-90s. He was a two-time All-American in addition to receiving consecutive Bronco Nagurski, Chuck Bednarik and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors as a linebacker (1995-96). He helped guide the Wildcats to the ’96 Rose Bowl. Since becoming the team’s head coach in 2006, he has led the program to nine bowl games (four wins).

We all know Lovie Smith’s coaching legacy with the Bears and his rebuilding of the Illinois football program, but did you know how much he dominated as a college player? He played for Tulsa from 1976-79, racking up 367 career tackles primarily as a safety. He was a three-time All-Missouri Valley Conference award winner and earned a second-team All-America mention in 1978. He was also named MVC Newcomer of the Year after he tallied 90 tackles as a freshman.

[MORE: Lovie Smith, Mike Tirico discuss systemic racism 

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, who passed for over 11,000 yards in seven seasons as a Chicago Bear, ranked No. 2 on Cirminiello’s list. In a follow-up tweet, Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck, who dominated as a wide receiver at NIU and at nearby Kaneland High School, came in at No. 20. Western Michigan’s Tim Lester —a star player at Wheaton Warrenville South HS— is in at No. 7.

Who said that the Land of Lincoln didn’t have top college football talent?

Northwestern Wildcats athletic department begins phased return to campus

Northwestern Wildcats athletic department begins phased return to campus

Professional, collegiate and prep sports have been on hold in Illinois since mid-March but it looks like there may be more light at the end of the tunnel. This time, in Evanston.

Northwestern University announced Thursday that a phased reopening of the athletic department, in tandem with NU’s overall policy for a return to campus, will include student athlete workouts on Monday June 22.

The relaunch of athletics at Northwestern during the COVID-19 pandemic comes as the state of Illinois is progressing in its own planned reopening, as dictated by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The sports medicine staff, athletic trainers and student-athletes with post-injury needs were welcomed back earlier this month and other select groups will be admitted back to campus next week.

Athletes will be required to complete a full physical upon arrival in Evanston on June 22. They will be screened before entering on-site facilities by means of a wellness check and a no-touch temperature scan.

Facility access will be managed through one entrance and exit. Locker facilities and lounges will remain closed, though, along with dining centers.

[MORE: Shortened NFL preseason puts big group of players at a disadvantage]

The Wildcats football team, along with both the men’s and women’s basketball programs, are penciled in to begin those voluntary workouts a week from Monday. Each unit should have plenty of motivation once they hit the playing surface.

Head coach Pat Fitzgerald and company are eager to put last year’s 3-9 mark behind them. On the hardwood, Chris Collins’ group needs a quick bounce-back after an 8-23 mark last season while the women’s team, under the tutelage of Big Ten Coach of the Year Joe McKeown, are looking to build off a stellar 2019-20 campaign. They won the their first conference championship since 1989-90 and boasted a school record 26 wins.


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