DePaul knocks off Northwestern in last second

DePaul knocked off Northwestern on a last-second layup.

With ten seconds remaining and Northwestern down by two, Tre Demps went to the free-throw line. Demps, who had scored 23, seemed like an obvious hero.

But his first missed. His second rimmed out. Drew Crawford secured the offensive rebound, and as time elapsed, it was embattled point guard Dave Sobolewski who hit the triple that gave NU a one-point lead.

If you watched closely, Sobolewski gestured toward his teammates: Calm down, he was saying. It wasn't over. With this team, it never is.

On the ensuing possession, armed with 4.9 seconds, DePaul ran the length of the floor. Durrell McDonald found Billy Garrett – who had beaten Sobolewski – under the hoop for the game-winning layup. DePaul 57, Northwestern 56.

They reviewed the play. The call was upheld. And win or lose, Northwestern was leaving Welsh-Ryan Arena in disastrous shape with the Big Ten opener looming.

"It's just a heartbreaking loss," Chris Collins said. "What are you going to say? It hurts."

"They shot in the three, then our guys had the presence of mind to come and execute and play it perfectly," DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell added.

It was a minor miracle that the Wildcats kept this one close. NU shot 28 percent in the first half – and 32 percent overall – with four assists to 10 turnovers.

Sobolewski continued his wretched struggles, making one of his eight field goal attempts, while Alex Olah failed to score and fouled out in a dismal effort.

"I just want my guys to be confident with their shooting," Collins said. "That's all I want. They're not blessed with a ton of offensive weapons."

They did have Demps, who singlehandedly kept NU competitive with his offense. He nailed seven of his 16 shots, with four triples and five made free throws. Once the most criticized player on the team, he's been an outstanding bench contributor for Collins.

"Tre is a scorer by nature and I thought he stepped up in a big way," Collins said.

It was essential given the limited status of Jershon Cobb. After missing two games with a sprained ankle, Cobb only played 13 minutes in his return. Even Drew Crawford looked vulnerable, shooting just 5-for-17. With many of the guard sets "interchangeable," per Collins, Demps showed off his comfort and improvement in the loss.

"Guys believe in me. The coaching staff believes in me," Demps said. "I think that's the number one key. Things opened up early and I saw some places to attack."

DePaul's own sloppy play contributed to the late-game thriller. The Blue Demons had 14 turnovers and stalled on offense, as key guard Brandon Young made just two of his 11 shots.

It was an old Big Ten face – former Purdue center Sandi Marcius – who gave them some stability. Marcius completed two three-point plays in a 13-second span, the second of which gave DePaul a 55-51 lead.

Demps hit two free throws to cut the lead and Young missed the front end of his one-and-one. That gave Northwestern a chance, and even when the team converted, it couldn't win. That's the sound of heartbreak.

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