Nov. 19, 2004
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska -
If the Northwestern men's basketball team ends up having a successful season -- and there are a number of prognosticators who believe they will -- they may look back on Friday's season-opening win over Portland as a nice springboard.
On a night when the 'Cats shot just 39 percent from the field and hit just 10 of 34 three-point attempts, they knocked down their last two treys to overcome the Pilots, 56-53.
With the win, Northwestern moves on to the semifinal round of the Top of the World Classic. The Wildcats will play New Mexico State -- a 65-61 winner over Western Michigan in overtime in Friday's second game -- Saturday at 8 p.m. Alaska Time (11 p.m. Central). The game will not be televised, and WGN Radio will not broadcast; however, fans can follow the action on the Internet by going to www.sportsjuice.com and clicking on the site's full schedule. Links to all of the tournament games can be found at that site. You can also follow the game statistically in real-time through the tournament's official website, www.towc.org
The final three-point buckets, from freshman Brandon Lee and junior T.J. Parker, allowed NU to come back on a game Portland team. Lee's shot came with 19 seconds left and gave Northwestern its first lead of the second half at 53-51.
Portland's Marcus Lewis tied the game up with 3.6 seconds left, driving in the lane and banking in a short jumper. However, Parker took the inbounds pass along the left side, drove down the court, and launched a desperation three-pointer from about 30 feet that met nothing but net.
The winning shot was Parker's third of his collegiate career. He also won games against Bowling Green as a freshman, and Arizona State last season as a sophomore.
Parker led all scorers in the game with 18 points, his best scoring game since the 2003 Big Ten Tournament when he scored 18 in a first-round win over Minnesota.
"We were very fortunate," said NU head coach Bill Carmody. "We started off pretty well, the first 10 minutes of the game were ours, but the second 10 minutes were theirs. I thought we had a lot of open looks, but we did not knock down our shots until those two guys hit those last two.
"We talk about doing the things you are supposed to do, and the wins and losses will take care of themselves," he continued. "We did not do the things until late."
NU used a 9-2 run early on to jump out to an 11-6 lead, and after giving up four points they used an 11-0 run to take a 22-10 advantage. The baskets may have come a little too easily, however, and as Portland settled down the Wildcats seemed to ease up. As a result, the Pilots outscored NU 13-1 during the final five minutes of the first half and took a 30-28 lead into the locker room when diminutive guard Jeremiah Domingues rebounded a long shot in the lane and put home the putback layup at the buzzer.
Portland then opened the second half with a 9-2 run that pushed its lead to 39-30. NU was able to get five of those points back when Vedran Vukusic (12 points) drained a pair of free throws and Lee dropped a trey on his first collegiate shot.
Portland's lead hovered between two and seven points for several minutes after that, and was 48-42 when Parker knocked down a trey with 4:32 to play. A few possessions later, Davor Duvancic hit a layup that made the score 48-47 in Portland's favor.
Ben Sullivan hit a rainbow jumper from the elbow that pushed the Pilots' lead back up to three, but then Vukusic hit a three-pointer -- his second make on 13 attempts -- to knot things at 50-50 with three minutes to play.
Both teams had several attempts to take the lead after that, but it wasn't until Portland's Pooh Jeter hit a free throw with 36 seconds left that the tie was broken. That set the stage for the final three possessions of the contest.
Lewis led Portland with 14 points and 11 rebounds (five offensive), while Jeter had 11 points, eight rebounds and three assists.
The Series With New Mexico State
This is the first meeting between the Wildcats and the Aggies in men's basketball.
NU is 5-2 combined against the schools that currently make up the Sun Belt Conference (1-0 vs. Denver, Florida International, Louisiana-Lafayette, New Orleans and Troy; 0-1 vs. Arkansas-Little Rock and North Texas); New Mexico State is one of two Sun Belt teams in this tournament, along with Utah State.
NU is 1-1 vs. the Sun Belt in Bill Carmody's career, losing to Arkansas-Little Rock in his opener at Northwestern and defeating Louisiana-Lafayette.
Notes from Game 1
NU won its opener for the third time in the Bill Carmody era, and is looking to go 2-0 for the first time since 2002-03.
NU made 10 three-point baskets Friday night, the 22nd time in the Carmody era that has happened.
NU attempted 34 three-pointers, the second-most in school history; the record is 36, set Feb. 1, 2003 at Ohio State.
Junior guard T.J. Parker won Friday's game with a last-second shot, the third such shot of his career. He also won games as a freshman against Bowling Green, and last year as a sophomore against Arizona State.
Parker scored 18 points, his best scoring night since the 2003 Big Ten Tournament when he had 18 points in a win over Minnesota.
Junior forward Vedran Vukusic, an consensus honorable mention All-Big Ten pick a year ago, had 12 points, the only other NU player in double figures.
NU improved to 14-27 under Carmody when two players score in double figures.
Senior forward/center Davor Duvancic tied a career high with nine rebounds.
NU's two newcomers, sophomore St. John's transfer Tim Doyle and freshman Brandon Lee, were a combined 4-of-5 from three-point land (Lee 2-3, Doyle 2-2).
Lee knocked down a trey on his first collegiate shot and had six points and two assists in 13 minutes of play.
Doyle had six points, four rebounds and two assists in 34 minutes of action.
Junior guard Mohamed Hachad made his 43rd consecutive start, the longest streak on the team (Parker has 32 straight starts and Vukusic has 30).
NU is in the semifinal of an eight-team tournament for the second time in three chances. The Wildcats' previous experience in eight-team "exempt" events under Carmody:
2000 - Carolina Shootout (San Juan, P.R.)
Kent State 67, NU 58 (1st round)
NU 69, Iona 67 (consolation semi)
NU 68, Evansville 52 (consolation final)
finish: 5th place
2001 - BCA Classic (Raleigh, N.C.)
NU 78, Virginia Comm. 73 (1st round)
East Carolina 71, NU 68 (semifinal)
NU 59, San Jose State 51 (consolation)
finish: 3rd place