What a year 2016 was. In the sporting world alone, LeBron James and the Cavaliers ended Cleveland’s misery, the Cubs ended the most infamous streak in sports and some of the world’s most incredible athletes converged on Rio for an incredible Olympic Games. In the midst of it all, Northwestern had a lot of memorable moments as well. Here’s what we’ll remember about Northwestern from 2016.
January 12: B-Mac goes off in victory over Wisconsin
Led by 28 points from Bryant McIntosh, the Wildcats took down the Badgers 70-65 at Welsh-Ryan. Wisconsin was just 9-9 after the game, but it was a vintage performance from B-Mac and a win over an eventual Sweet 16 team.
March 4: Northwestern women’s basketball defeats Indiana to make the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament
The Northwestern women’s basketball semifinal appearance in the Big Ten Tournament despite starting as a No. 12 seed was the craziest four days of sports I’ve seen in person. The peak was Northwestern’s 79-73 upset victory over Tyra Buss and a tough Indiana team.
Northwestern, of course, was without senior Maggie Lyon, and nearly lost an overtime thriller against Wisconsin on Day 1, which would have been fitting for the miserable conference season that Northwestern endured. Instead, Northwestern defeated Rachel Banham’s Minnesota team on March 3 and capped off its revenge tour with a win over Indiana on March 4. I could watch Nia Coffey chasedown blocks for a millennium.
March 10: The putback
What more can be said? Yes, Northwestern lost. But to see Alex Olah, who grew leaps and bounds on and off the court over his time in Evanston, sliding across Bankers Life Fieldhouse with both fists raised brought a smile to any sports fan, and perhaps an accompanying tear as well for any Northwestern supporter.
June 13: Welsh-Ryan renovations announced
The athletic department announced a $110-million renovation of Welsh-Ryan arena, completely modernizing the stadium and showing the continued growth of Northwestern basketball.
August: Jordan Wilimovsky represents United States, Northwestern at Olympic Games
Phelps, Ledecky and other names dominated the headlines, but Wilimovsky did an admirable job representing his nation and his school in his Olympic debut, finishing fourth in the 1500 meters and fifth in the 10k. He missed out on the medal stand by just seconds in both races. Wilimovsky returned to Northwestern this academic year after redshirting to focus on Rio last year, and he has dominated back at the NCAA level. Freshman Valerie Gruest-Slowing was also there, competing for Guatemala.
October 15: Northwestern puts up 54 in win over Michigan State
It’s a number that’s never appeared on the Spartan Stadium visitor scoreboard. Until October 15, 2016, that is. The Wildcats just could not stop scoring. At one point in the second half, the Wildcats scored touchdowns on four of five possessions. Austin Carr scored three times and tortured the Spartans all day, Justin Jackson ran for a then-career-high 188 yards and added two scores himself. Pretty much everyone set a career high.
October 29: Northwestern heads into the fourth quarter tied with Ohio State at Ohio Stadium
Words like “big” and “intimidating” don’t do Ohio State justice. It’s a different world in Columbus. Wading through throngs of Scarlet and Grey is like trying to navigate Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
On the field, things weren’t any easier. The Wildcats looked thoroughly outmatched early as the Buckeyes marched up and down the field and picked off Clayton Thorson on a tipped pass. But just as they had all year, the Wildcats weathered the early road storm and came back thanks to the exploits of Austin Carr and a strong defensive effort.
And then the boos came. After a couple of tackles for a loss, Ohio State was punting, and the Buckeye faithful, who had just endured a loss to Penn State, were letting their players know. Here was little Northwestern with its tiny contingent of purple in the corner going wild, going toe to toe with the mighty Buckeyes in their home stadium. It was David versus Goliath, and even though the score was tied, David was winning. Of course Northwestern ended up just short, but that’s a moment I will never forget.
December 28: Northwestern wins the Pinstripe Bowl
No, the Pinstripe Bowl wasn’t where Northwestern wanted to end its 2016 season. But that’s where the Wildcats ended up, and they made the most of it, beating a very good Pittsburgh team 31-24 at Yankee Stadium. Justin Jackson ran for a career high 224 yards and the Wildcats forced four turnovers to upset the Panthers and end 2016 on a high note.