By Adam Braunstein
As now former Northwestern men’s basketball player Nathan Taphorn walked to his class Wednesday morning, he was confronted with an image that has infuriated everyone in and around the Northwestern basketball program since it happened: the picture of Dererk Pardon being blocked through the rim by Zach Collins of Gonzaga.
Interesting walk to class today pic.twitter.com/aP1fRIhFdF
— Nathan Taphorn (@NU_nate32) March 29, 2017
By now, you almost certainly know the story. This missed goaltending, immediately followed by a technical foul on a fuming Chris Collins, proved to be the nail in the coffin for Northwestern’s attempt to overcome a 22-point deficit in their second-round loss to Gonzaga.
But Northwestern, please learn from Collins’ mistake and do not let the anger get the best of you.
It seems to go overlooked, but that well-earned technical foul was every bit as damaging as the missed call. Had Collins shown better restraint, the Wildcats would have been on defense, down five, with just under five minutes to play. In this hypothetical, Northwestern is well within striking distance. Instead, Collins lost his cool, Gonzaga was given two shots and the ball and Northwestern’s historic season came to a halt.
While Collins’ decision to storm onto the court and approach the referee was foolhardy, it is easy to understand. The refs made a terrible mistake at a critical juncture of the game. Collins wanted to win, and he wanted it badly. He wanted it not only for himself, but for the entire Northwestern community and his players, specifically seniors like Taphorn and Sanjay Lumpkin, who had suffered through so much to finally reach this point. And in that moment, Collins let his emotions get the best of him.
But mystery person, by hanging this poster below the Arch, you are choosing to remember perhaps the worst part of an otherwise glorious season. Go back and read our station’s season predictions. Spoiler: no one expected Northwestern to rack up 24 wins and narrowly miss out on the Sweet Sixteen. But it happened. Northwestern went into Columbus, Ohio, and beat the Buckeyes in enemy territory for the first time in decades. Without Scottie Lindsey, Northwestern defeated No. 7 Wisconsin in Madison. Dererk Pardon hit a miraculous buzzer-beater to practically clinch Northwestern’s first-ever NCAA tournament birth. Northwestern beat Maryland at the Verizon Center to make it to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament for the first time in school history. The list of accomplishments for this year’s squad goes on and on.
So Northwestern, do not dwell on that one horrible missed call. Do not make that the image of the season, the image that Nathan Taphorn sees on his walk to class during his final quarter as a Northwestern student.
If you see Taphorn or Lumpkin around campus, congratulate them on a great career and a historic final year. Don’t let someone else’s mistake be the defining moment of the season.