Tre Demps did it again.
The Wildcats’ redshirt junior guard buried a game-winning shot for the second game in a row on Saturday, as Northwestern squeaked by Elon 68-67 in overtime.
Demps led all Northwestern scorers with 21 points and hit a turnaround jumper in overtime to secure the win for the ‘Cats. He also shot 54 percent from the field and buried a couple three pointers to keep the Wildcats in the game whenever Elon threatened to pull away.
“Our coaching staff has done an unbelievable job preparing us to fight through those tough times,” Demps said. “We have a lot of competition drills [in practice] where the emphasis upon the drill is winning ... Our coaching staff has done an amazing job preparing us for game situations.”
The ‘Cats began the game with excellent defensive pressure, forcing a couple turnovers and getting some nice fast break opportunities early. However, the ‘Cats weren’t able to turn those into points and Elon jumped out to a quick lead. The Phoenix were able to get easy points in the paint and work around the Wildcats’ center tandem of junior Alex Olah and freshman Gavin Skelly.
Eventually, Northwestern began to find their scoring punch as Demps and sophomore Nate Taphorn connected on back-to-back three pointers to trim the deficit. When freshman Bryant McIntosh hit Demps on a full-court assist midway through the first half, the ‘Cats managed to tie things up. The game would stay close going into the break, as Elon led by only two at halftime.
The Phoenix came out of the locker room red-hot and extended their lead to double digits early in second half, but the ‘Cats were able to claw back due to some excellent play from their freshmen. Skelly was fantastic throughout the game on both ends of the floor, playing the most minutes of his young career and making his Northwestern debut, freshman Johnnie Vassar gave the ‘Cats a spark off the bench. Vassar hit his only shot of the game and drew a charge in some nice second-half minutes.
“Johnnie Vassar’s energy in the second half just kind of woke us a little bit,” head coach Chris Collins said. “I felt that we were tired and had no energy, and my instincts just told me to give him a chance.”
The game looked to be slipping away late for Northwestern, but as they’ve managed to do all season, the ‘Cats found a way to win. Elon committed a couple silly fouls and the ‘Cats were able to stay in the game down the stretch. With less than a minute left and Northwestern down two, McIntosh drove for a baseline jumper and the Wildcats sent it to overtime.
In OT, Elon jumped out to a five point lead before the ‘Cats pulled off yet another Houdini act. After a few quick baskets and some clutch free throws, the ball was in Demps's hands with Northwestern down a single point.
But that’s exactly where the Wildcats want to be.
Demps connected from the top of the key and Northwestern took the lead for good. Elon had multiple chances to win in the closing seconds, but the ‘Cats clamped down on defense and pulled it out.
“We have to play a lot better, our guys know it. Some of these guys, they don’t quite believe me when I tell them how tough it is to play at this level,” Collins said. “We’ve have a big area of growth with this team and we’ll keep striving for that. [But] it’s great to be able to stand here knowing we pulled this game out.”