The force awakened the Wildcats in overtime on Saturday afternoon, as Northwestern trounced DePaul in overtime to cap an undefeated week of men’s basketball. Combined with a victory over Mississippi Valley State on Tuesday, the team improved to 10-1, NU's best start since the 2011-12 season.
Rolling off five straight victories, the ‘Cats controlled the momentum entering Tuesday’s contest. The MVSU Delta Devils (0-12) were coming off a 35-point drubbing at the hands of Evansville three days before, and it showed. The Wildcats never trailed and cruised to a 78-48 victory. Center Alex Olah led the charge with 21 points and 11 rebounds in for his 10th career double-double.
But the Demons in blue gave NU considerably more trouble. The DePaul Blue Demons (5-6) gave the Wildcats their toughest run in nearly a month. The contest was close from the start and neither team led by more than 7 in regulation. DePaul held Northwestern to 34.5 percent shooting in the first half, but nine points from forward Sanjay Lumpkin and a 4-4-4 point-assist-rebound line from Bryan Mcintosh kept the 'Cats afloat. Northwestern entered the half down 30-29.
DePaul point guard Billy Garrett opened the second half with a jumper and set the tempo for the next 19 minutes. But led by 13 points from Tre Demps, the ‘Cats continually clawed back against the surging Blue Demons until they trailed just 61-60 with less than a minute left. With 28 seconds left, a free throw from Lumpkin after a foul away from the ball tied the game at 61. Demps' attempt at a game-winning jumper hit the rim but failed to roll in, sending the game to overtime.
Aaron Falzon quickly took over in the extra five minutes. DePaul had neutralized Falzon during regulation, holding the three-flicking freshman power forward to an 0-for-6 day from beyond the arc. But he awoke in overtime, drilling a pair of threes to lead the Wildcats (who outscored DePaul 17-9 in OT) to a 78-70 victory.
Demps finished with 18 points and Olah added 14. After failing to break 11 points for five straight games from Nov. 18 through Dec. 1, the seven-foot center is averaging 16.5 points per game over his last four contests.
The Wildcats have three non-conference games remaining before they kick off their Big Ten schedule on Dec. 30 against Nebraska. If they win their next two at home against Sacred Heart (1-8) then Loyola (Md.) (1-8), these 'Cats would own the fastest start for Northwestern since before the turn of the century at 12-1.