It was quite a year for Chicago college hoops with top 25 upsets, buzzer-beaters, a 40-point performance and more. Thank you for reading and following The Catch and Shoot through it all.
2016 brought plenty of controversy within and without sports. But as 2016 comes to a close, let’s focus on this year’s best moments in Chicago hoops from the thrilling, to the awe-inspiring, to the uplifting.
Here are the top 16 moments of 2016:
1. DePaul upsets No. 11 Providence (Feb. 2)
2016 was not an easy year overall for DePaul basketball, but the consolation is the Blue Demons had the city’s top moment — a resounding upset over No. 11 Providence. The Blue Demons led the Friars for all but a few minutes of a 77-70 victory at Allstate Arena.
Forward Myke Henry, now playing with the D-League’s OKC Blue, had a career night with 27 points on 12-of-18 shooting and 11 rebounds. He scored 16 in the second half, including a crucial layup with 28 seconds left to give DePaul a 75-70 advantage.
Then guard Darrick Wood provided the nightcap slam.
— #BIGEASThoops (@BIGEASTMBB) February 3, 2016
The Blue Demons held point guard Kris Dunn, now with the Minnesota Timberwolves, to 14 points on 5-of-20 shooting, although the NBA prospect dished out 8 assists.
2. Bryant McIntosh sets single-season assist record (Feb. 4)
Northwestern has had a handful of program greats play point guard, but McIntosh has already worked his way to the top of his list. As a sophomore, he broke the program’s single-season assist record with his 158th dime and more than a month left in the 2015-16 season.
McIntosh’s record-breaking pass went to Tre Demps with 11:48 remaining in the second half of an 82-58 win against Minnesota.
“I knew [the record] was there just from our athletic media tweeting at me,” McIntosh said after the game. “I wasn’t putting any pressure on myself. I could have forced it a little bit more to try to get it a little bit earlier, but I was just playing the game.”
He finished the season with 213 assists, a record that may stand for a long time as even he is on pace to fall short of that mark as a junior.
Still, if McIntosh keeps up his pace of 5.5 assists per game, he will break the school’s career assists record in the regular season finale against Purdue, and that will certainly make the 2017 edition of this list. Juice Thompson currently holds the program record with 528 dimes, and McIntosh has 434 entering Tuesday’s game at Penn State.
3. Northwestern wins 20 regular season games for first time (March 6)
After a 13-1 start — its best since 1930 — Northwestern held a 17-11 record entering the final three games of the regular season. The Wildcats annihilated Rutgers, upset Penn State on the road and took care of business against Nebraska to salvage its first 20-win regular season in program history.
Although the Wildcats lost to Michigan in their first Big Ten Tournament game and did not make the postseason, the 20 wins tied a program record set by the 2009-10 and 2010-11 teams, even including postseason.
“It was important for us to try to get 20 wins,” coach Chris Collins said after the Nebraska game. “I just think we’re continuing to move forward. … It was a great accomplishment for this team.”
The Wildcats’ 8-10 Big Ten record tied its best mark since the league schedule expanded to 18 games in 2007-08. The 9th place finish was its best since the 2011-12 season.
“The thing I always try to think about is it’s always bigger than yourself,” said senior guard Tre Demps, whose final game at Welsh-Ryan Arena was Northwestern’s 20th win. “You want to leave momentum for the program.”
4. Loyola upsets San Diego State (Dec. 3)
We have to go back only a few weeks for this one. The Ramblers knocked off a big time opponent at Gentile Arena for the second straight year, defeating Steve Fishers’ Aztecs 65-59.
Loyola built a 10-point lead early in the second half but lost control and trailed by one late in the game. A strong finish led by junior Ben Richardson and Aundre Jackson allowed the Ramblers to survive.
— MVC Basketball (@ValleyHoops) December 3, 2016
Jackson dropped 24 points on 11-of-12 shooting, including that nifty reverse against Malik Pope.
5. Billy Garrett Jr.’s game-winner at Marquette (Jan. 20)
Searching for its first Big East win of the second Dave Leitao era, DePaul trailed 56-54 at Marquette in the final seconds. Leitao trusted Garrett, who had a very difficult game with 5-of-18 shooting to that point, in a clutch situation, and the decision paid off big-time.
8 seconds to go. Down 2. No problem for @BGarrett_5
— FS1 (@FS1) January 21, 2016
Garrett took advantage of a mismatch with Luke Fischer, crossing over the big man to get into the lane. He squeezed through two defenders for an acrobatic finish to tie the game, and got fouled to earn a chance for the lead.
Garrett drained the free throw, and DePaul came home with a big road win against its northern rival.
6. Donte Ingram’s rivalry buzzer beater (Dec. 17)
Just two weeks ago, Loyola and UIC put together one of their most memorable meetings ever. After Loyola blew a 12-point lead, UIC gained a 6-point advantage in the second half. The Flames were still clinging to a 68-65 lead with 7.1 seconds left, and the Ramblers needed to go the length of the floor and hit a three to force overtime.
That’s exactly what Donte Ingram did in his first game back from an MCL sprain, rising above K.J. Santos from a few feet beyond the arc.
Here's a slightly better look at Donte Ingram's desperation three to force overtime. pic.twitter.com/ALkNqJP8Sp
— The Catch and Shoot (@Catch_N_Shoot) December 18, 2016
The added controversy was that prior to Ingram’s streak down the court, inbounder Ben Richardson appeared to commit a violation by running the baseline after a dead ball. However, the refs conferred and decided to redo the play because the baseline official had mistakenly told Richardson was in fact allowed to move his feet.
Ingram also had the go-ahead bucket in overtime as Loyola went on to win 81-75, its fifth straight win against UIC. Ingram had 20 points and 9 rebounds.
7. Ice Guice (Dec. 14)
DePaul knew Kyle Guice was on the floor to shoot the ball, yet the Blue Demons could not stop him. The stretch forward recorded a career-high 14 points with four 3-pointers off the bench, including the go-ahead bucket with 54.6 seconds left.
Cold as Guice. Guice-water in his veins. All of the wordplay you can think of was fair game after a clutch shot like that in a rivalry game.
UIC went on to upset DePaul, 80-75, without leading scorer Dikembe Dixson. The win was also UIC’s first on the road under second-year coach Steve McClain.
8. Tracy Dildy becomes Chicago State’s all-time winningest coach (Dec. 22)
Being the head coach at Chicago State is far from an easy job. In fact, with Illinois’ current budget issues, you could argue being the head coach at Chicago State is the most difficult job in Division I basketball.
So even though a 50-155 record over six-plus seasons does not sound impressive, it’s better than you think. Dildy’s 50th win came against Southeast Missouri State last week, and it made him Chicago State’s all-time winningest coach since moving to Division I in 1984.
9. Bryant McIntosh destroys Wake Forest (Nov. 28)
The Wildcats are making a run for their first-ever NCAA Tournament bid in 2017, and a loss at home to Wake Forest would have put a big dent in their chances.
McIntosh had struggled greatly to this point in the season, shooting just 35 percent from the field, and he did not have a good first half against Wake Forest with 2-of-8 shooting.
Then the junior point guard exploded to score 19 points on 8-of-8 shooting in the final 12:06.
McIntosh scored at the rim on three straight possessions to turn a four-point deficit into a 44-42 lead for Northwestern with 11:04 remaining. His jumper with 3:50 left broke a tie, and after a Wake Forest bucket, his three-point play put the Wildcats ahead again entering the final three minutes.
With Northwestern still leading by three, McIntosh hit a huge 3-pointer with 1:06 left to double his team’s lead. The Wildcats went on to win 65-58.
10. Do a little dance, make a little love, get your first D1 win tonight (Jan. 30)
In Steve McClain’s first year, UIC still had not defeated a Division I opponent with February nearing. The Flames had their best chance on Jan. 30 with Cleveland State visiting.
UIC came back from down nine points to force overtime. With two seconds left in OT, forward Najeal Young knocked down a mid-range jump shot to give the Flames their first D1 win in dramatic fashion.
— Bill Potter (@billpotter_) January 31, 2016
The dance bumps this one up the list a few spots.
Here are the full highlights.
11. Loyola sweeps Northern Iowa (Feb. 17)
After an 0-5 start to conference play, Loyola stunned the Valley with a 51-41 win at Northern Iowa, which had defeated North Carolina, Iowa State and Stephen F. Austin earlier in the season.
One month later, Northern Iowa visited Gentile Arena with a six-game winning streak fresh off a major victory at Wichita State. Once again, the Ramblers upset the Panthers, 59-56.
Both times, Loyola got the job done with its defense, holding UNI to 29.2% shooting and 0.78 points per possession over the two games.
The 2016-17 season didn’t have many high points for Loyola, but sweeping a NCAA Tournament team that nearly reached the Sweet 16 was a major accomplishment. It was also the first time the Ramblers swept a team that finished in the top half of the Valley since joining the conference in 2013.
12. Alex Olah gets introduced with family on senior day (March 6)
Donning a Romanian flag across his shoulders and flanked by his father Lucian, mother Adriana and brother Sebastian, Alex Olah had the most emotional segment of Northwestern’s senior day ceremony. This was the family’s first time visiting Olah since he left for the United States in high school.
Olah’s introduction occurs at the 1:19 mark of the above video.
Although Olah had his ups and downs, he will be remembered as one of the top big men to come through Northwestern. The 7-footer was a four-year starter and holds the schools all-time blocks record.
Olah gave Welsh-Ryan Arena a good farewell with 19 points and 8 rebounds as Northwestern knocked off Nebraska.
13. DePaul comes back to beat Missouri State at the buzzer (Nov. 23)
Missouri State was a popular sleeper pick the Missouri Valley, and the Blue Demons trailed the Bears by 13 points midway through the second half.
Billy Garrett Jr. was phenomenal in crunch time, scoring 19 points in the final 12 minutes. His final bucket was the biggest, beating the buzzer from just in front of the foul line to give DePaul a 68-66 victory.
Billy Garrett hit a buzzer-beater to lift DePaul over Missouri State. pic.twitter.com/NKZ3Ziu8z3
— Scott Phillips (@phillipshoops) November 24, 2016
Here’s another angle of the game-winner.
14. That time Milton Doyle turned Gentile Arena into a skating rink (Dec. 10)
What happens when fifth-year senior Milton Doyle goes up against sophomore Jeremiah Bell?
— Porter’s Jacket (@PortersJacket) December 11, 2016
This looked like a “Welcome to Division I” moment for Bell, who transferred from junior college. Here’s one more look from the baseline camera.
WhEn YOuR FavOrite BaskeTBaLL PLAyEr Is AlsO A MagiciAn ⚡️?⚡️? pic.twitter.com/PJMhTQZOXH
— Porter’s Jacket (@PortersJacket) December 11, 2016
Rumor has it Bell may never walk again. (Just kidding, he’s actually a promising piece for the young Panthers, averaging 7.7 points and 2.2 assists.)
15. Dikembe Dixson drops a 40 burger on Youngstown State (Feb. 16)
It took a few overtimes to get there, but scoring 40 points in any scenario is a huge accomplishment, especially for a freshman.
Equally as impressive, Dixson played all 50 minutes of the double overtime defeat, taking 39 shots to reach his 40 points. He also had 17 rebounds.
This was a game UIC should have won, as it held six-point leads late in regulation and in the second overtime. Dixson, winded from the long night, missed two crucial free throws at the end of the second overtime and Matt Donlan’s tip-in with 1.2 seconds left gave Youngstown State a 92-91 victory.
16. Northwestern beats Illinois in a rivalry thriller (Feb. 13)
Northwestern got swept by its downstate rival in the 2014-15 season and was on the verge of dropping three in a row in their lone meeting of the 2015-16 slate.
In a slugfest, Northwestern and Illinois traded buckets for most of the game until the Wildcats opened up a 56-51 lead with 2:05 left. They still led by five in the final minute, but Kendrick Nunn’s 3-pointer led to an exciting finish.
Illinois got the defensive stop they needed afterwards, and coming out of a timeout, coach John Groce got the ball to leading scorer Malcolm Hill at the top of the arc with 2.7 seconds left.
Sanjay Lumpkin lived up to his reputation on defense, forcing Hill to lose the ball as time expired. Northwestern escaped with a 58-56 to improve to 5-8 in Big Ten play.
Northwestern leading scorer Tre Demps also got some redemption in this game. After averaging 9 points in the rivalry for his career, he exploded for 18 during his senior finale.
Alex Olah’s miracle toss forces overtime against Michigan at Big Ten Tournament (March 10)
—Coming back from down 12 points in the second half, Northwestern still needed a special play or two down 59-55 with 28 seconds left. Olah hit a three, and after Duncan Robinson split a pair of free throws, the game appeared over when Tre Demps’ pull-up jumper was too long.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) March 10, 2016
However, Olah got his hands on the rebound and threw up a 10-footer while falling backwards that found the bottom of the net to tie the game 60-60 with 0.1 seconds left. In overtime, Zak Irvin’s jumper with three seconds left ended Northwestern’s season.
Had Northwestern won this game, Olah’s shot would have been at or near the top of this list.
Loyola takes top-seeded Wichita State to the wire at Arch Madness (March 4)
—With a 19-point swing, the Ramblers turned a 12-point deficit into a 7-point lead with nine minutes remaining against the heavily favored Shockers. Loyola still led 55-54 entering the final two minutes, but Ron Baker’s 3-pointer with 1:52 to go put Wichita State ahead for good in a 66-58 decision.
In another performance worthy of mention, senior forward Montel James willed Loyola past Bradley the night before with 20 points, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks.
Loyola receives its first top 25 vote since 1985 (Dec. 12)
—Did the Ramblers deserve it? Maybe not. But hoops scribe John Feinstein ranked Loyola 25th on his AP ballot for the Week of Dec. 12, giving the Ramblers their first vote since ending the 1984-85 season ranked No. 14.