The most memorable moments of 2012

It was a memorable year for Northwestern athletics, filled with highs and lows on the fields, courts, and even the Olympic pool. PurpleWildcats looks back on the and exhilarating and heart-breaking moments of 2012 for Northwestern.

1.) John Shurna makes Northwestern history — It was the year of John Shurna in Evanston. The baby-faced assassin won over the nation with his sweet shooting stroke and genuine smile. The senior forward was the heart of his Wildcat team, giving everything he had in the final stanza of his career. All John Shurna needed on February 18 was just 17 points to pass Billy McKinney as Northwestern's all-time leading scorer. It was a given he'd reach the record. Yet, Shurna didn't score till late in the second half, when he picked Andre Hollins and threw down a forceful dunk with one hand. From there, he caught fire. The arena was buzzing each time he touched the basketball. With 15 points in the scoring book and 10:48 in the second half, Shurna launched a long-range shot from well beyond the arc. Nothing but net. The game was stopped as the fans saluted one of the program's greatest players of all-time. A legendary career received its due adoration.

Link: Shurna cements spot in NU history

2.) NU women's lacrosse rallies to finals — It was shocking when Northwestern found itself trailing and lacking life in the semifinals. It wasn't so surprising when the Wildcats stormed back on a 5-1 run, earning another chance at the NCAA title. That's just what NU lacrosse does under head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. The Wildcats downed Maryland with an exciting comeback, setting the table for the program's sixth national championships in seven seasons. The dynasty was kept intact thanks to Taylor Thornton's two goals and stifling defense. The incredible Shannon Smith recorded four assists in the effort. It was a thrilling day for Northwestern, but one that can't even be called a surprise. That's what the Wildcat lacrosse team does.

The season was filled with heartbreak for Northwestern basketball.

3) A sad Selection Sunday — The news wasn't surprising, but it brought a sobering finality to Northwestern's season. The NCAA tournament selection committee announced the field of 68 teams, and Northwestern was not called. After failing to earn needed victories over Michigan, Purdue, Ohio State, and Minnesota, the Wildcats didn't deserve the chance to dance, but the bitter feeling didn't hit till that rainy Sunday in Evanston. Bill Carmody met the media and tried to put a positive spin on the program's NIT appearance, but it was an impossible task. It was the first time Northwestern had a legitimate hope on Selection Sunday, but the news remained the same as the past 74 years.

Link: Wildcats miss NCAA tournament field

4.) NU alum Matt Grevers win Olympic gold — 52.16 seconds. That was the time it took for Northwestern alum Matt Grevers to win gold in London. It was a dominating, record-breaking victory for the Lake Forest, Ill. native in the 100-meter backstroke. Stateside, it was a joyous celebration for Northwestern supporters, watching one of their own represent the country.

5.) Chelsea Armstrong makes Senior Day memorable — One of Northwestern's most decorated athletes left the Thomas Athletic Complex in style. Chelsea Armstrong capped a four-goal game with her 100th career goal—just the third player in Big Ten history. Armstrong will go down as an all-time great in Northwestern athletics. It was a magical end to her memorable career.

6.) Sullinger sinks Northwestern's tournament hopes — Welsh-Ryan Arena was elated after Alex Marcotullio's game-tying three-pointer. It completed a rally from down 13 points, and was supposed to be the miracle NU needed to reach the NCAA tournament. The problem is that there were seven seconds still on the clock. Ohio State fed the ball to forward Jared Sullinger who banked it off the glass. It would be a dagger in Northwestern's dream to dance—a devastating game for those who packed in the arena.

Link: Sullinger's shot sinks Northwestern

7.) Devin Gardner to Roy Roundtree — Call it the "Michigan Miracle," the "Hail, Hail Mary," or whatever you will. Either way, it'll make a Northwestern fan cringe. Inside the Big House, there were just 18 seconds on the clock, and the Wolverines had no timeouts in hand. Devin Gardner was flushed from the pocket, reached back, and heaved a bomb downfield. Off a Daniel Jones deflection, receiver Roy Roundtree made a diving catch to change the game. A field goal sent the game to overtime, and Michigan would get the victory. The impact felt grander when Northwestern was snubbed for the Capital One Bowl and Outback Bowl in place of Nebraska and Michigan. Worse, at the time, was how it ended NU's Big Ten title hopes.

Link: Michigan's miracle crushes Cats

8.) Michigan State goes down — The student section was packed and Welsh-Ryan Arena was filled to the rafters. The energy inside the building set up a special day. John Shurna paced the way with 22 points and led his team to a victory over the sixth-ranked Spartans. As the clock hit zeroes, the students rushed the court. It was an exciting, much-needed victory for Northwestern, and one that won't be soon forgotten.

Link: Wildcats upset No. 6 Michigan State

Northwestern retained the Land of Lincoln Trophy by routing rival Illinois.

9.) Northwestern trounces rival Illinois — It was a tale of two seasons. Northwestern was riding high, seeking its ninth win of the season in the finale. For Illinois, it was the final chapter of a nightmare tale—a two-win campaign in Tim Beckman's first year. The Wildcats weren't prepared to show mercy, not after being embarrassed at Wrigley Field in 2010, or the collapse in in Champaign in 2011. The Land of Lincoln Trophy returned to Evanston in convincing fashion, with Northwestern hanging 50 points on its rival. A Paul Jorgensen touchdown catch and Bo Cisek fumble added insult to injury. The hat was back with the Wildcats.

Link: No revenge, just a rout for Northwestern

10.) Ifeadi Odenigbo commits to Northwestern — It was another ‘hat dance' which meant bad news for Northwestern, or so everyone thought. Four-star prospect Ifeadi Odenigbo would pick the hat of Northwestern, Notre Dame, or Stanford. After months of hard work by Pat Fitzgerald and Randy Bates, it came down to a January Saturday and a table of hats surrounded by friends and family. Odenigbo picked up the purple hat, sparking excitement for Northwestern fans. Odenigbo would go down as one of the biggest verbal commitments Pat Fitzgerald has landed … until Matt Alviti just three months later.

Link: Odenigbo commits to Northwestern

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers for Big Red Report, and currently covers the Northwestern Wildcats. He resides on Chicago's north side.
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