It’s not 2013 anymore. Chris Collins is not a new coach and Northwestern has gone dancing.
The year is 2013. Chris Collins is in his first season at Northwestern, and with the new reign comes an invitation to the most competitive non-conference tournament the Wildcats have ever played. The Las Vegas Invitational brings a level of talent that’s objectively out of the league at Northwestern, but the matchups against UCLA and Missouri provide the kind of exposure a team still waiting for their first dance would love.
A decade later, the 2013 team is long gone, save for Chris Collins, whose position was called up a few months ago, still at the helm. But now Northwestern has two March Madness appearances and two wins with a 2017 win over Vanderbilt and another over Boise State on Thursday night. Hoping for a third win — and a bit of a miracle, too — Northwestern prepares to take on No. 2 seed UCLA on Saturday. Much like November 2013, UCLA is a strong team capable of a deep run in March, and Northwestern is the underdog, grateful for the opportunity to compete.
The Cats and Bruins have faced each other a total of four times, the most recent being at the Las Vegas Invitational. They have fought before in 1969, 1962 and 1949, and NU were only victorious in the first game by a six-point margin. The Bruins eclipsed the Cats by 14 points in 1969 and 13 in 1962. I’ll enlighten you on the details, but since historical records can only give me the scores, I’ll leave that storytelling to a generation of sportswriters who don’t. don’t have Twitter. After doing the math, you’ve probably figured out that no member of the modern era of Wildcat basketball will remember the early disadvantaged history between Northwestern and its future Big Ten foe. But the Wildcats’ dance history doesn’t begin in those years anyway, it begins with Collins taking charge of that program.
With the start of the new era, the basketball team was all but revived by the kind of publicity that came out of Evanston, and the Las Vegas Invitational was a signal signal of that. As for the results, you can probably imagine how it turned out.
It was a four round robin tournament, where Northwestern defeated IUPUI and Gardner-Webb but lost to Missouri before facing UCLA in the championship round. Off the field, UCLA was the only nationally ranked team, going 5-0 and ranking 22nd in AP polls. The Bruins team included Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, two offensive stars who had just helped UCLA win a conference and then a solid win over the ‘Cats.
The offensive onslaught started early: UCLA made its first five shots while Northwestern missed its first five. Northwestern was down 14-1 before the offense could get a little closer to 18-10. At one point, the ‘Cats managed to get under six points, but the Bruins wouldn’t miss. At halftime, the Bruins led 51-38 and had shot 76 percent from the field.
In the second half, NU tied UCLA a bit better, posting 41 to their 44 points. However, there was no answer for the Bruins offense which made 13 of 17 three-point attempts. In the 95-79 victory, Adams, Zach LaVine and Bryce Alford each had 18 points, while Anderson scored 16.
JerShon Cobb, who was hired by Collins as director of player development in 2018, led the ‘Cats with 22 points and was named to the all-tournament team, and Kale Abrahamson also added 19.
Overall, the game meant little to the ‘Cats. Having a victory over a reputable team would have been huge for Collins and a resurgent program, but his own relatively strong shooting night, taking place without his leading scorer Drew Crawford at the time, was overshadowed by a triumphant showing from UCLA. . The team went on to finish the season 14–19 and tied for 10th in the Big Ten. Yet the competition itself may have foreshadowed what was to come. Ten years is a long time, and there certainly haven’t been any seasons where the ‘Cats have emerged victorious, but as was written for Inside NU at the time, Collins brought a sense of culture change. in the program.
The Wildcats will face the Bruins for only the fifth time in program history tonight at 7:40 p.m. CT on TNT. The odds may be stacked against Northwestern, but it’s March and anything can happen.