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Northwestern pulls out first NCAA tournament win in first NCAA tournament game

Northwestern pulls out first NCAA tournament win in first NCAA tournament game

SALT LAKE CITY — Pat Fitzgerald was in the house, standing on his seat and leading a stadium-wide chant of "Let's go Cats!"

This building probably hadn't been that loud since Stockton and Malone. At least it hadn't been that purple.

Northwestern fans were out in full force for the program's first-ever NCAA tournament game, which ended up as the program's first-ever NCAA tournament win, a 68-66 defeat of Vanderbilt.

The victory advanced the Wildcats to the Round of 32, where they'll take on top-seeded Gonzaga on Saturday here in Utah.

It wasn't quite as easy as it looked when Fitzgerald was playing the program's ultimate cheerleader, when Northwestern grabbed a 15-point lead in the second half. Vanderbilt closed that big gap almost instantaneously and took a few late leads, but the Cats hit the requisite free throws down the stretch and barely pulled out the two-point win.

After Vandy took a 66-65 lead with 18 seconds left, a Commodore incredulously fouled Bryant McIntosh and sent him to the free-throw line to get the lead back for the Cats. Vandy missed a go-ahead 3-point try at the other end, and Northwestern sweated out the win.

McIntosh was sensational, scoring a game-high 25 points. He got help from big man Dererk Pardon, who scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Pardon hit six clutch free throws down the stretch. Scottie Lindsey also scored in double figures with 14 points.

If Northwestern was nervous playing in its first-ever NCAA tournament game, it sure didn't look like it early. The Cats started out real well, hitting six of their first 10 shots — and getting seven early points from McIntosh — as the Commodores couldn't do a thing offensively, making just three of their first 13 shots and at one point going more than four minutes without a point.

Northwestern had a couple nine-point leads in the early going, but Vandy kept chipping away, getting a few 3-pointers and bunching points together to get the lead to three, later two and later one. But Lindsey hit a couple big 3s to turn one-possession gaps into two-possession gaps. Northwestern closed the half on a 9-3 spurt to pull away from a one-point lead, getting McIntosh's third 3-pointer of the first half and four straight from Lindsey.

Northwestern shot 56 percent from the field over the first 20 minutes, with McIntosh and Lindsey combining for 25 points. The team went 5-for-7 from 3-point range. The Cats also had a 16-10 edge in points in the paint. Vandy scored 11 points off eight Northwestern turnovers, though the Commodores were a frigid 34.6 percent from the field.

The Cats got a couple McIntosh buckets to start the second half and take their lead to double digits for the first time on the game. Northwestern actually looked primed to run away with the game and hide when Nathan Taphorn buried a 3-pointer off Gavin Skelly's missed free throw, cranking the Cats' lead up to 15 with under 14 minutes to play. But that lead disappeared in a hurry, as Vandy answered with 12 straight points to get within three.

Northwestern created a tiny amount of breathing room from there, but Vandy quickly closed that gap, too, and was within two inside of five minutes to play thank to another long-distance 3. A couple Pardon free throws got the lead back to five, but with under three minutes to go, Lindsey was whistled for a foul on a 3-point shot, giving Vandy three free throws to get within a point. Pardon countered with two more free throws, and after Vandy split a pair at the other end, the Commodores splashed in a go-ahead triple inside of a minute and a half to play.

McIntosh answered with a floater that snatched the advantage back for the Cats, but after Vic Law missed the front end of a 1-and-1 that could've extended the lead, Vandy cashed in with a go-ahead layup. The game was on Pardon's shoulders at the free-throw line on the next trip down the floor, and he hit a pair to put Northwestern back in front. But Vandy again answered with a go-ahead bucket, only to foul McIntosh after he received the inbounds pass. McIntosh hit two free throws to give Northwestern a one-point lead, and Vandy missed a go-ahead 3-point try at the other end, the Cats grabbing the win.

The victory was the fifth since 1985 for a first-time tournament team playing as a No. 10 seed or better. Northwestern will take on top-seeded Gonzaga on Saturday for a shot at a trip to the Sweet Sixteen.

Northwestern Wildcats pause football workouts after positive COVID-19 test

USA Today

Northwestern Wildcats pause football workouts after positive COVID-19 test

The Northwestern Wildcats have stopped football workouts due to a player testing positive for COVID-19. A university spokesperson says, the school is now undergoing “rigorous contact tracing and quarantine protocols to protect the health and safety of student-athletes, coaches and staff.”

Some student-athletes have already been placed in quarantine, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The earliest any football activities can resume for the Wildcats is Wednesday, according to the university spokesperson.

Michigan State required their entire football team to go into quarantine in late July after several positive tests among players and staff.

In addition, the Big Ten announced they will play a conference-only schedule in 2020, if they’re able to play at all.

RELATED: Northwestern football will not host Wisconsin Badgers at Wrigley Field

Lou Henson, former Illinois Fighting Illini basketball coach, dies at 88

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Lou Henson, former Illinois Fighting Illini basketball coach, dies at 88

Hall of Fame former Fighting Illini head basketball coach Lou Henson died last Saturday. He was 88 years old.

Henson was the all-time wins leader at the University of Illinois, guiding the team to a 423-224 record from 1975-1996. That included a 214-164 record in Big Ten Conference play, and one Big Ten conference title in 1984.

He also led the Illini to 12 NCAA tournament appearances, the highlight being a Final Four berth with the 1988-89 “Flying Illini.”

"Our Orange and Blue hearts are heavy," said Josh Whitman, Illinois Director of Athletics, in a statement. "We have lost an Illini icon. We have lost a role model, a friend, and a leader. We have lost our coach.

“Coach Henson may be gone, but the memories he provided us, and the legacy he created, will last forever. He was responsible for almost 800 wins in the record book and countless Fighting Illini moments frozen in time, but Coach Henson's true measure will be felt in the lives he touched – the lives of his former players, people on this campus, and friends in our broader community.

“We are all better for whatever time we were privileged to spend with Coach Lou, whether it was five minutes or 50 years. He made everyone feel like a friend. I so enjoyed my time with Coach these last five years, and I will miss him. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mary, Lisa, Lori, Leigh Anne, and the entire Henson family. Their family will always be part of ours."

In addition to his iconic career at the University of Illinois, Henson coached at New Mexico State where he compiled another 289 victories, from 1966-1975 and 1997-2005. Henson is the wins leader at New Mexico State, as well.

His 779 career wins rank 28th all-time in NCAA history. He was inducted into the National Collegiate Hall of Fame in 2015. The same year, the newly renovated court at Illinois was renamed “Lou Henson Court.” The basketball court at New Mexico State is named “Lou Henson Court,” as well.

“He really was ahead of the game, in terms of bringing fan interaction and fan connection to a program,” said Stephen Bardo, one of Henson’s former players in a video on Twitter. “For me, Lou Henson’s voice got louder the longer after I left school. The more of an adult I became, the older my kids became, I would hear coach Henson’s voice more. I would impart the lessons I learned from him onto my children.

“He had an enormous impact on my life.”

RELATED: Big Ten to play conference-only NCAA football schedule 'if able'