As we come to the end of decade of the 2000s I’ve seen lists for the best movies of the decade, the best TV shows of the decade, the best books of the decade, and many more. What I want to offer starting today, and finishing later in the week, are best NU basketball games of the decade.
This list will be premiered in two parts. Today we’ll start with some honorable mention games (contests not quite in the top 10) and games #10-6. Later in the week I’ll reveal games #5-1. The list was compiled by going through every NU win for the last decade and having an expert panel (okay, just me) review those wins for excitement, player performance, and meaning for the program.
Let’s start with a few games which were just short of making my top ten.
November 28th 2006 – Northwestern 61 Miami 59 (Big Ten/ACC Challenge)
Craig Moore scored 24 points and tied a then school record with 7 three pointers and the Wildcats got their first Big Ten/ACC Challenge win against a team other than Florida State. This probably would have been higher on the list if NU had played better that season.
February 25th 2009 – Northwestern 75 Indiana 53
NU breaks a 35-game losing steak at Indiana behind Craig Moore’s 17 points and Juice Thompson’s 16 points. The win was historic, but misses in part due to how bad Indiana was last season.
March 3rd 2004 – Northwestern 51 Iowa 49
Vedran Vukusic hits a buzzer beater with 0.7 seconds left to lift NU over Iowa. With the win NU sweeps Iowa for the first time since 1959. I went back and forth with this game, but it missed the list as the opponent in game #10 was of high quality.
Now let’s move onto games #10 thru #6. We start early in the decade…
#10 December 27th 2000 – Northwestern 63 #16 USC 61
Ben Johnson (who should never have left NU) hit a baseline jump shot with 1:23 left and two free throws in the final seconds the seal Bill Carmody’s first big win as NU’s head coach. A lot of NU faithful missed this game as they were already in San Antonio for the Alamo Bowl, but it was a great contest.
#9 February 5th 2003 – Northwestern 74 Indiana 61
Northwestern dominated the Hoosiers for the first win over the perennial Big Ten power in 15 years. NU was led in the game by freshman Mohamed Hachad who had 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 steals. The game was put out of reach on a three pointer by Winston Blake which also ended up as the basket on which Blake scored his 1,000th career point.
#8 February 9th 2005 – Northwestern 55 Minnesota 53
In the days before the Big Ten Network not all the games NU played were on TV. I remember listening to this one on the radio. The Wildcats came back from down double digits with less than 4 minutes left and won after Vince Scott hit a three to tie the score and T.J. Parker delivered the last of four career buzzer beaters to give NU the win.
#7 March 13 2003 – Northwestern 76 Minnesota 64 (Big Ten Tournament)
This game makes the list because NU hasn’t had a lot of success in the Big Ten Tournament, but in 2003 NU was seeded 10th yet hammered the 7th seeded Golden Gophers. Jitim Young scored 20 points in the game to lead NU to victory.
#6 March 4th 20009 – Northwestern 64 #19 Purdue 61
The most recent game on the list, NU used great defense from a number of reserves and some unlikely baskets by Sterling Williams to push past Purdue in West Lafayette for the team’s 17th win of the season. That tied the school record for regular season victories.
The rest of this list will come out later in the week. Feel free to offer you comments and thoughts on what you agree with, disagree with, and what you think might be #1.