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Rapid Reaction: In hard-fought overtime affair against Wake Forest, Northwestern falters late and falls 77-73

That one’s gonna sting for a while.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Stop me if you’ve heard this one before — Northwestern basketball had a good shot to win a game against a quality opponent, but just couldn’t pull it off.

The Wildcats (5-2) were faced with a familiar situation in their road contest against Wake Forest (7-1), but just didn’t have enough to get over the finish line, ultimately dropping the game 77-73 in overtime.

Playing without a real offensive leader for much of the contest, the ‘Cats began to rely on Pete Nance late in regulation, and he finished with a team-high 15 points while bringing in seven rebounds and dishing out five assists. The Demon Deacons were led in scoring by guard Kyle LaVaria, who finished with 21 points and hit the most clutch shot of the game to put his team up for good late in OT.

Robbie Beran started off the Wildcats’ night with a three-pointer on the team’s first possession of the game. The ‘Cats and Demon Deacons then traded two-point buckets before NU left LaRavia open behind the arc twice and LaRavia cashed in on both opportunities.

NU missed eight straight shots after its two initial makes to open the game, opening the door for Wake to take an 11-5 lead after five minutes of play. The Northwestern offense would swing in the opposite direction soon after, though, with five different shooters collectively going 4-for-6 from the field in the ensuing three minutes to make the score to 16-14 in favor of Wake Forest.

After a few minutes of back and forth action that left Wake with a 19-18 lead, the Demon Deacons’ Khadim Sy was assessed a technical foul after already being called for a charge drawn by Elyjah Williams. Ryan Greer hit both free throws, giving NU a 20-19 advantage. The Demon Deacons quickly wiped that away, though, regaining the lead with a pair of free throws of their own, and extending it to 30-20 after making three consecutive attempts from three-point range. At this point in the game, seven of Wake Forest’s 10 made field goals had come from beyond the arc.

Northwestern failed to score for five minutes of gameplay following Greer’s two makes from the charity stripe, allowing WF to build a 13-0 run before a mid-range shot from Williams broke the drought for the ‘Cats with just over three-and-a-half minutes left in the half. Williams’ make and a lengthy scoreless stretch for the Demon Deacons allowed NU a 12-2 run of its own before Wake’s Daivien Williamson beat the halftime buzzer with a three to leave the score at 37-32.

The ‘Cats came out for the second half red hot, making their first three shots, the latter two of which were three pointers. The 8-2 run, which gave NU a 40-39 lead, prompted Steve Forbes to call a timeout.

Out of the timeout, the Demon Deacons went back to doing what they did best in the first half: hitting threes. They knocked down two straight from deep to regain the edge, then added another two on long jumper to make the score 47-40 in WF’s favor, sparking Chris Collins to call a timeout to stop the bleeding.

It took some time, but once again, the Wildcats worked their way back into the game. Some sound free-throw shooting paired with a heavily-contested but converted Ryan Greer layup and a three from Ty Berry tied the game at 51 with 10:27 to play. The teams continued to trade buckets in the ensuing minutes, leaving the score knotted at 55 with six minutes to go.

At this point, Nance took over for the Wildcats. Shooting and scoring on three consecutive possessions and converting on a pivotal three-point play, he combatted the Deacons’ efforts successfully to keep things tied, this time at 62 with under three minutes left in the game.

After WF hit a pair of free throws, Nance found Ryan Greer for an open mid-range look that he converted, and each team missed a few shots, the score remained tied at 64 with under a minute to play. A failed three-point attempt from WF set Northwestern up with a chance to take a late lead, but Elyjah Williams missed what could’ve been a game-winning layup. After another Wake three-pointer clanged out, it appeared Boo Buie called a timeout as Elyjah Williams rebounded with just over a second left on the clock, but the timeout was not recognized by a referee, sending the game to overtime.

The ‘Cats got ahead early in the extra period of play, with two free throws by Buie putting NU up 66-64. A foul on Ryan Greer gave the Demon Deacons a chance to match, but they hit only one of two attempts from the line, keeping NU in front 66-65. A nice play in transition led to a blocking foul drawn by Williams driving down the lane, but he only hit one of two as well, meaning that Northwestern’s advantage was only a bucket.

On the following possession, Wake tied things up at 67 with a layup, but another pair of free throws from Buie put the Wildcats back ahead by two with 2:16 to play in OT. LaRavia then bested Beran down low while drawing a foul, resulting in a three-point play that put Wake Forest up by one with just under two minutes remaining.

Julian Roper was fouled in a chaotic scrum while Northwestern was attempting to grab an offensive rebound, giving him an opportunity to put his team back ahead, which he took advantage of. Just moments later, though, the freshman was called for a foul of his own, giving Wake a chance that they converted on to retake the lead. Though the ‘Cats had a number of chances to regain the advantage on their next possession, none of their shots at the rim fell, and they were forced to foul.

The door opened for the Wildcats when Williamson missed the first of his two free throws. After a timeout, a well-designed play left Buie with an open look at the rim, and he hit the easy shot to tie the game at 73 with 20 seconds to go. With 4.7 seconds left, LaRavia hit a contested shot over the outstretched hand of Beran, putting his team up by two.

Following another timeout, Boo Buie failed to haul in the inbound pass before trying to charge up court, resulting in a turnover. LaRavia recovered and was fouled, knocked down the two free throw attempts that resulted and ended the game in doing so, as Wake Forest emerged victorious by a score of 77 to 73.

The ‘Cats will start their conference schedule on Sunday when they travel to College Park to take on Maryland.