Starting on Saturday, Dec. 27, InsideNU will be counting down the top five moments of the year in Northwestern sports. With an emphasis on the revenue sports, and from games to controversies to championships, we'll bring you one moment per day in descending order, with the top moment of 2014 being revealed on New Year's Eve.
Northwestern went to Madison on a Wednesday night in late January having lost in disappointing fashion, a 26-point loss to then-No. 10 Iowa at home, just days earlier. But the Wildcats were in the midst of their season's best stretch. Having won at Indiana and having beaten Purdue in a double-overtime home win in the two games prior to the Iowa loss, Northwestern found itself playing its best basketball of the year albeit with a 10-11 (3-5 Big Ten) record.
Wisconsin, ranked No. 14/13 in the country at that point, had lost three of its last four games but still sat at 17-3 overall. Just weeks prior, the then-No. 4/5 Badgers came to Welsh-Ryan Arena in Chris Collins' first Big Ten game and crushed the Wildcats 76-49.
Then this happened:
Northwestern held sharp-shooting Wisconsin to just 15 field goals throughout the entire game, keeping the Badgers to shooting just 26.3 percent in the 65-56 victory. Collins basically said, "Screw it. I'm not playing anybody I don't want or need to," and played JerShon Cobb, Sanjay Lumpkin and Drew Crawford 40, 39 and 40 minutes respectively.
There was Nikola Cerina, who played a season-high-tying 17 minutes and scored a season-high-tying six points, including an up-and-under move few people, if any, thought he had in his arsenal. Lumpkin had probably the most Lumpkin-y game of his young career, scoring just two points, collecting 12 boards, committing six turnovers and five fouls, while playing basically the entire game before being subbed out for James Montgomery III in the final minute.
But, most of all, there was Drew Crawford's second-highest scoring night of his career as he poured in 30. He was dominant as the best player on the floor. He carried Northwestern's offense all night, as he did pretty much all season, leading Northwestern to its first win at Wisconsin since 1996 and its first ever win at the Kohl Center.
Following the game, Northwestern got another big win at Minnesota, but then went on to lose eight of 10 games to finish the year at 14-19. Wisconsin, on the other hand, finished the year winning 13 of 17 games on its way to a Final Four appearance. Regardless of what happened in the remaining games, there was no doubt this was the best game of Chris Collins' inaugural season at the helm.