Ed. note: Welcome AKnickelbein! He won the 2018 OTE Bowl Pick’em Challenge, and as such gets to write a Fanpost about whatever he wants. Thanks to all for playing!
This stands as my greatest achievement to date. Big thanks to MNWildcat for setting up the competition.
Most children do not choose to root for Northwestern unless their parents are graduates, but alas, I am not most children. Growing up in Oak Park, IL I attended a handful of football and basketball games and quickly became enamored with the ‘Cats for some weird reason. I once listened to a Northwestern-Rhode Island NIT game on WGN radio—I was (and still am) a die-hard fan.
I knew I would never attend NU due to my very average academic performance in high school, but I knew I’d root for them while attending UMD (who had not yet joined the Big Ten). NU would be my 1a and UMD would be my 1b.
Northwestern’s 2014-15 basketball team was bad. They lost to Northern Iowa and Central Michigan in the non-conference and began Big Ten play 0-5, with four of those losses coming via classic Northwestern choke jobs.
On January 25th, NU traveled to College Park to take on the 13th ranked Terrapins. I walked over to the XFinity Center with some friends wearing a ratty Adidas Northwestern jersey. I decided not to join them in the main student section, as they would be too much of a distraction. I can’t watch NU games with anyone but my brother, known in OTE message boards as nufandan. So I scanned my Maryland student ticket and headed towards the seats opposite the main student section.
Maryland students are renowned for their bad behavior at sporting events, and although Duke was no longer on the schedule each year, the harassment remained. I was pelted with crumpled-up newspapers by some kids seated behind me. I ignored them. I was dialed in. It was the first ‘Cats game I had attended since a 57-56 home loss to Chicago’s Big East Team, the DePaul Blue Demons.
NU raced out to an early lead, with Sanjay “it may not show up in the stat sheet, but this guy does it all” Lumpkin hitting back-to-back threes at one point. The ‘Cats took a 41-30 lead into the half. As a seasoned NU fan, I knew this lead would disappear.
For most of the second half, NU weathered every Maryland charge. Bryant McIntosh was phenomenal, hitting floater after floater to silence the crowd. The score stood at 63-52 with 3:47 to go but anything less than a fifteen point lead was dangerous territory for the ‘Cats.
Just as I predicted, Northwestern went into default choke mode. This consists of suddenly being unable to box out their opponent, turning the ball over, and missing free throws. The lead slowly dwindled to eight, then six, then four, then three. The clock seemed agonizingly slow.
18,000 fans were going nuts, and a few kids behind me were screaming directly into my ear canal after each Terrapin bucket. I had experienced this type of Northwestern game before, but never as an opposing fan.
Northwestern briefly regained the lead with thirteen seconds to go thanks to Tre Demps, but that is not how this story ends. Northwestern failed to box out Dez Wells after Melo Trimble chucked up an ill-advised three, and he soared towards the rim for an easy put-back.
Final score: 68-67.
Being a Northwestern fan involves getting punched in the gut repeatedly, but this loss was particularly rough. One year later, I mustered the courage to do it all again, hoping Northwestern would knock off the 7th ranked ‘Terps.
The final score in overtime: Maryland 62—Northwestern 56.
What’s one more gut punch?