June 19, 2009
EVANSTON, Ill. -- The Wildcat women's lacrosse and men's basketball teams were recognized on the Big Ten Network's second-annual Awards Show Friday evening. Northwestern's lacrosse team was honored as the Women's Team of the Year while men's basketball's victory at Michigan State on January 21 was voted the Game of the Year.
Women's lacrosse captures the honor for the second-straight year after winning its fifth-straight national championship and posting a perfect 23-0 record in 2009. The Wildcats, who held the nation's number one ranking the entire season, defeated third-ranked North Carolina 21-7 on May 24 in Towson, Md. Northwestern set NCAA single-season records in both points (570) and goals (407) while outscoring their opponents by nearly 11 goals a game. Of the 'Cats' 23 victories, 16 were against teams in the top-20, including 10 against top-10 foes.
Head coach Bill Carmody's men's basketball team had a breakthrough season in 2008-09, finishing 17-14 and earning an NIT berth, the first postseason appearance for the Wildcats in 10 years. But the 70-63 victory at seventh-ranked Michigan State on Jan. 21, 2009, will be the victory Northwestern fans remember for years to come. Trailing by one with just over seven minutes remaining, the Wildcats got two huge 3-pointers apiece from Michael Thompson and Craig Moore to take a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Kevin Coble paced Northwestern with 31 points in the contest, a high for a Big Ten player during the 2008-09 season. The victory snapped a 28-game home winning streak for the Spartans who went on to finish as the national runners-up.
Wrestler Jake Herbert was also announced as the Big Ten Conference's Jesse Owens Award winner, given annually to the conference's top male student-athlete.
Northwestern was also among the finalists for a handful of other awards. The Wildcats' women's tennis team, which captured its 11th consecutive Big Ten title and became the first northern school to win the NCAA Indoor Championships, was nominated for Women's Team of the Year along with lacrosse. Tennis coach Claire Pollard and lacrosse coach Kelly Amonte Hiller were among the finalists for the Women's Coach of the Year.
Brendan Smith's 48-yard interception return for a touchdown in the waning seconds at 20th-ranked Minnesota was among the finalists for the Best Finish. With the game tied at 17 with just under 30 seconds to play, Smith snatched a deflected pass from Gopher quarterback Adam Weber and moved his way through traffic to find the end zone with 12 seconds remaining, giving the Wildcats a 24-17 victory.