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Northwestern shouldn't let one unfortunate moment define a season

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Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

With his Northwestern Wildcats in the midst of a stunning 20-5 run that cut No. 1 Gonzaga's second-round lead to a mere five points with five minutes left, Collins threw a temper tantrum after a disgusting no-call by the officials, running out onto the court to shout at a referee and quickly getting T'd up.

What a odd, heartbreaking way to close out the school's first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.

The NCAA sent the statement out while Collins was talking to reporters, so someone read it aloud to the coach. I feel like this is just a building block.

They trailed by 18 points at the half and were still down by that margin with 12 minutes to play when they made an impressive run and cut the lead to five with less than six minutes to go.

The arena, drenched in purple, was rocking, and all the momentum was in Northwestern's corner.

Contested shots, and forced looks resulted in a lot of iron for the Wildcats, who shot 30 percent from the field in the first. He was repeatedly thwarted in close when he ran into Gonzaga's bigs and could barely put the ball on the floor much less initiate offense in the half court for fear of turning it over. If he can smooth the edges and round out his foundation, that could be just the factor that would allow this Northwestern team to turn the corner and beat teams like Gonzaga in games such as Saturday's, as well as allow Law to turn the corner towards becoming the truly special player - on both the conference and national scale - that he could be. The Bulldogs throttled the Wildcats, jumping out to a 32-12 lead and never looked back.

Regrets? If the coach had any, they weren't apparent in the aftermath.

When the replays were shown, it was clear that Collins had reached up through the rim to block the shot, which is illegal in basketball. I don't necessarily think when you get into the NCAA tournament and have one day of prep you switch everything you're doing. Of course. That cuts it to three. On the ensuing possession, McIntosh missed a 3, which was put back by a flying dunk from Vic Law, cutting the difference to five - the closest Northwestern would come.

What a comeback it was. There are two ways to win in the NCAA Tournament: have one or more gifted players who will go to the National Basketball Association after their freshmen seasons; or have talented, but not too talented, players who can grow together to the point where they are very unsafe by the time they're juniors and seniors. They were limiting Gonzaga's Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins, each miles better than any Northwestern big man.

"I thought we were shell-shocked early, " Collins said. "We weren't really anxious about (that)".

With the win, Few picked up his 500th career coaching victory. But he more than understood the emotion of the moment.

"We've just got to come into practice today, work on free throws, work on executing, less turnovers, and get the game plan down for Xavier", FSU guard Dwayne Bacon said. "You lose, your season's over". They expected to win, even when history seemed to be snickering at them. "You react spontaneously and stuff happens".

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