No. 8 Northwestern got its first NCAA Tournament win in program history Thursday, beating No. 9 Vanderbilt, 68-66, in opening-round action in Salt Lake City. The postgame chatter, however, focused less on Northwestern (24-11) and more on Vanderbilt (19-16).
More specifically, it focused on Commodores junior guard Matthew Fisher-Davis, who inexplicably fouled Northwestern’s leading scorer, Bryant McIntosh, on purpose with 14.6 seconds to go – despite the fact that Vandy led 66-65.
Fisher-Davis clearly thought his team still trailed.
“That poor kid,” Fox Sports college basketball analyst Vin Parise said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “You make the bucket, you go up by one. Here’s the amazing part. (Vanderbilt’s Riley LaChance) makes the bucket, and if you watch where (Vandy head coach Bryce) Drew is, he’s waving to get back (on defense) and (Fisher-Davis) so casually and confidently grabs him to commit that foul.”
It was stunning, and it was gut-wrenching – all at the same time.
Parise, though, was even more surprised by Fisher-Davis’ desperation heave at the buzzer.
“What about the last attempt?” Parise said in disbelief. “You’re talking Bryce Drew, Valpo. If anyone should have a full-court, Christian-Laettner-type action to get it off, (Drew should).”
Drew, of course, hit one of the most iconic game-winning shots in NCAA Tournament history, drilling a three at the buzzer to beat Mississippi in 1998. The attempt was set up by a full-court pass – and then a touch pass – that gave Drew the chance to win it.
On Thursday, though, Vanderbilt simply in-bounded the ball in the back-court for a desperation heave.
“Basically just get it in and fling it – yes, it gets close, but that’s just a heartbreaker,” Parise said. “That’s one that that fan base is going to be figuring out for a lot of years. Think about what that kid is going through mentally right now. How do you just not know that you took the lead on the bucket?”