By Ron Wynn
The Vanderbilt Commodores overcame a 15-point second half deficit, but then suffered a crushing 68-66 loss Thursday to the Northwestern Wildcats in the NCAA tournament.
The Vanderbilt Commodores made a rousing comeback Thursday afternoon against Northwestern only to suffer a crushing 68-66 loss in the NCAA tournament. Vanderbilt had been down by 15 points early in the second half, but then put together a 12-0 run to get back in the game. After missing a couple of chances to take the lead, Vanderbilt did indeed go ahead with only 18 seconds left by one point.
Then came what will go down unfortunately as the play of the year for Vanderbilt, only in a negative fashion. Matthew Fisher-Davis, who had powered the comeback with clutch three-pointers and tremendous drives, committed an intentional foul on Northwestern’s Bryant McIntosh. Though McIntosh had not shot any free throws the entire game, he finished third in the Big 10 during the regular season at 86 percent. McIntosh drained both, and Northwestern later added one free throw to cement the final margin.
“I made a dumb (expletive) foul,” Fisher-Davis told USA Today. There was some speculation that he might have misunderstood a communication from the bench telling him to pick up McIntosh and instead he thought someone said foul him. Whatever the case, it cost the Commodores a chance to advance.
But Vandy coach Bryce Drew rightly credited Fisher-Davis with being the key man in the Vanderbilt comeback. “We’re not even in position (to win) without him,” Drew said.
Vanderbilt also had no answers for McIntosh. He spearheaded Northwestern’s victory, finishing with 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field. “A dream come true. What a special moment for our program,” McIntosh said after the game. It was Northwestern’s first time in the NCAA tournament in its history, a 78-year drought.
Northwestern coach Chris Collins said: “We didn’t feel any pressure today. The pressure was getting to the tournament. We just made one more play in the end.”
Sadly, Vanderbilt will now have all off season to think about how one critical miscommunication ended their season.