It was not a pretty 40 minutes, but non-conference play in Chicagoland ended in a thrilling manner. After blowing an eight-point lead in the second half, DePaul (8-5) defeated Northwestern (7-6), 57-56, on a buzzer-beating layup by freshman guard Billy Garrett Jr.
Moments earlier, Northwestern was in prime position for its fourth straight victory after junior guard Dave Sobolewski’s three-pointer with 4.9 seconds left gave the Wildcats a 56-55 lead.
After taking the first lead of the game at 2-0 on a Sanjay Lumpkin layup, DePaul controlled the scoreboard for the rest of the first half and most of the second half. The Blue Demons took a 28-23 lead into halftime, and fewer than seven minutes into the half the advantage was 39-31.
Northwestern junior JerShon Cobb, who saw limited minutes after nursing an ankle injury the last two games, and redshirt sophomore Tre Demps then drained back-to-back three-pointers to jumpstart the Wildcats and close the gap to a deuce.
Northwestern remained within two possessions for the next few minutes, until a Drew Crawford bucket with 2:08 remaining gave the Wildcats their first lead of the half at 50-49. Crawford, who was fouled on the shot, failed to make the free throw and then missed a three-pointer on the next possession as Northwestern could not extend its lead at a crucial time in the game.
DePaul senior Sandi Marcius responded with back-to-back three-point plays, with a Crawford free throw sandwiched in between, to put the Blue Demons back up by four points.
The Wildcats scored the next five points, but Garrett’s buzzer-beater proved to be the difference.
Demps led Northwestern with 23 points, a career high.
The only other Wildcat to score in double figures was Crawford, but he shot poorly at 5-of-17 from the field.
Sophomore center Alex Olah struggled offensively and fouled out in the final minute, but he had a productive outing defensively with four blocks and nine defensive rebounds.
Marcius paced DePaul with 12 points and five rebounds while senior forward Cleveland Melvin recorded 11 points and six boards.
Garrett added nine points and four assists, and junior Charles McKinney added eight points off the bench.
Both teams start conference play next week, with DePaul traveling to Georgetown on Tuesday and Northwestern hosting Wisconsin on Thursday.