For the first time ever, Northwestern men's basketball played in an NCAA Tournament game. But, alas, it wasn't to be.
Bryant McIntosh hit two free throws with 14.6 seconds left to help lift Northwestern to a 68-66 win against Vanderbilt on Thursday in Salt Lake City and give the Wildcats a win in a first-round matchup that served as their debut in the NCAA Tournament.
After leading for most of the game, a flurry of lead changes in the final minutes left Northwestern trailing Vanderbilt with just 18 seconds left.
Fast forward to the second half and McIntosh was back at it, but this time he was keeping Northwestern alive down the stretch. "We're not even in that position without him", he said.
Vanderbilt up 1 point with 15 seconds to go. "We rely on him to lead us in every fashion, to score, to assist, to be a vocal leader".
Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew didn't blame his star, who dropped a team-high 22 points in the game, during a postgame interview.
"When he grabbed me, I was kind of surprised", McIntosh admitted. "You envision yourself hitting the game-winner".
No one remember the shots that come before the game victor, but if McIntosh had missed the shot that put Northwestern up 63-62 with 1:12 left, there very well may have not been a chance at a game victor.
The sequence was set up after Riley LaChance made a layup with 17.8 seconds remaining to put the Commodores up by one.
As soon as Fisher-Davis committed the foul he knew he had messed up. Northwestern tightened their rotation and all the starters played more than 30 minutes.
The Bulldogs (33-1) won their opening game for the ninth consecutive season, pulling away in the second half to beat 16 seed South Dakota State 66-46.
"I actually thought we were down one", Fisher-Davis explained after Thursday's heartbreaker in the West region. His message in the aftermath was simple: "From Day 1, we teach our guys that we're a team and one play at the end. doesn't win or lose the game". It was a first for the Wildcats and a monumental day for the players, coaches and fans that believed the day would eventually come. One made free throw later and Northwestern had secured the final margin. I'm going to make mistakes and everybody is going to be around me and supporting me and vice versa. "But to be able to do that at the free throw line was very relaxing". After the 2014-15 season, Collins signed a multiyear contact extension that he said would keep him in Evanston for the "foreseeable future".
Was Fisher-Davis' mistake more egregious than Chris Webber's infamous timeout in the 1993 national championship game?
Well, they call it March Madness for a reason. "To me, this is the beginning of Northwestern basketball".
But, things didn't end there.
As for Vanderbilt, they are a battle-tested group that has played the toughest schedule in the nation.
"It was close enough and we enjoy watching basketball", said Caitlyn Frakes.