BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Indiana rediscovered its closing kick Saturday night.
Now the Hoosiers will find out if it helps them cross the finish line with an NCAA Tournament bid.
Thomas Bryant completed a 3-point play with 2.6 seconds left and the Indiana defense shut out Northwestern for the final 93 seconds, turning a seven-point deficit into an improbable 63-62 victory.
"If you stay with those things long enough, eventually the bounce is going to go your way," coach Tom Crean said. "Tonight, the bounce, literally, went our way."
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 26, 2017
Bryant finished with 11 points, six rebounds and came up with the biggest play when he posted up, caught a nifty wraparound bounce pass from James Blackmon Jr. and dunked the ball over Scottie Lindsey. Then with the score tied at 62, Bryant's free throw bounced high off the back of the rim and the left side of the rim before going through.
The relieved crowd roared — as it did again just a few moments later when Bryant McIntosh's half-court heave bounced off the other rim as the buzzer sounded.
With Indiana's five-game losing streak over , Indiana (16-13, 6-10 Big Ten) can start thinking about what they must accomplish at No. 14 Purdue, at Ohio State and at the Big Ten Tournament to get into the tournament.
Blackmon led Indiana with 13 points and made the 3-pointer with 38.6 seconds left that cut the deficit to 62-60.
"You've got to have some reward for the hard stretch we've gone through," Crean said. "The reward is resiliency."
Sure, the Hoosiers could have made it easier Saturday.
But they got the job done, twice.
After falling into a 26-14 first-half deficit, Indiana closed the half on a 22-0 run — the last points coming on Devonte Green's 60-foot, buzzer-beating heave. That made it 36-26.
Northwestern (20-9, 9-7) then opened the second half on a 17-3 spurt to retake the lead with 13:45 to go and maintained that lead almost the rest of the way. They still led 62-55 with 1:33 left before going stone cold.
Indiana took advantage with a layup from Robert Johnson, Blackmon's 3 and Bryant's finishing touch.
McIntosh had 22 points, Lindsey added 13 and Derek Pardon had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Wildcats.
"We fought," coach Chris Collins said after a second straight loss. "It's just at the end of the day we didn't finish the game in the last two minutes."
Northwestern: A few weeks ago, the Wildcats seemed a lock to make their first NCAA Tournament. They still might be. But after losing five of seven, they need to get things righted.
Indiana: The losing streak is over but the ramifications still loom. Any more stumbles could doom their NCAA Tourney hopes.
Green hasn't played a major role for Indiana this season though he certainly had a big hand in this one.
After banking in the buzzer-beating heave at the end of the half, he shimmied and slapped hands with teammates — before the replay review confirmed the shot was good.
It was the second replay review that went Green's way. His only other 3, with 5:01 left in the first half, started the run. Originally, it was ruled a 2-pointer and was changed after the next stoppage.
ON THE RECORD
Northwestern could have pulled off quite a trifecta Saturday — breaking the school's single-season record for wins, matching the school record for most road wins in conference play and sweeping the Hoosiers for the third time since 2008-09.
Instead, two of those opportunities slipped away and one remains on hold.
Still, Collins had few complaints.
"I thought this was the best we've played in about five or six games," he said. "That's an encouraging thing and we need to take that into the last week of the season."
Northwestern: Tries to get back on track Wednesday when Michigan visits.
Indiana: Tries to avoid a season sweep when at Purdue on Tuesday.
Follow Michael Marot on Twitter @apmarot