In a game of runs, a confident Stanford team used savvy play to keep the Cats from jumping ahead.
"We beat a good Northwestern team," said Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins. "I give them credit. They never let up."
It appeared Northwestern was in trouble early, with a weak showing on defense and no answer on offense. Stanford, which had been shooting just barely 25 percent from beyond the arc, had luck on its side to start the game, hitting five of its first six threes.
"They have not shot the ball well [from three] this year," said Carmody. "But they certainly knocked them down in the first half."
Northwestern trailed by 18 points during a first-half timeout. That's when senior guard Alex Marcotullio helped voice a message to his team.
"We've got to step up and play harder," were the words stated on the bench. It resonated with the team.
It was Marcotullio—with a back injury behind him—who sparked his team with a long-range three-pointer. That was the start of an important run.
Northwestern's run reached 10 unanswered when Reggie Hearn scooped up a loose basketball and slammed in a forceful dunk. The run continued, reaching 17 straight NU points when Hearn banked in a layup. The Wildcats turned a laugher into a ballgame.
"That was no surprise," said Dawkins. "I told our team the entire time: ‘expect a great game.' And we got one."
Stanford began to separate in the second half, but guard Tre Demps gave Northwestern a boost off the bench. He tallied 12 second-half points, with his most important pair evening the margin at 67 with less than two minutes remaining. However, Aaron Bright responded with a three of his own to give Stanford its lead back.
With Hearn sidelined and Sobolewski scuffling, the final shot was offered to Demps. He drove to the rim, but his layup bounced out.
"I knew I could get past [Stanford center] Dwight Powell," Demps said of the final possession. "The shot just didn't fall."
Each time the Cardinal was prepared to pull away, Northwestern battled back. However, the Wildcats' only lead of the game was 2-0. Stanford had an answer each time.
"I thought we had key stops when we needed them and key buckets when we needed them," said Dawkins. "I'm really proud of our guys for stepping up in this kind of environment."
Northwestern has one tune-up game before Big Ten play opens on January 3rd, with Brown traveling to Welsh-Ryan Arena on Sunday. The Wildcats—already without forward Drew Crawford—may not have Reggie Hearn on their side as he suffered an ankle injury in the second half. He left the arena wearing a boot for protection.
A win over the Bears would provide a needed morale boost entering a long layoff. For now, the Wildcats must sulk in a painful defeat.