EVANSTON | By his own assessment, JerShon Cobb was having a poor shooting night, but the junior guard had little doubt what the result would be as Northwestern setup for a potential game-winning shot in the final seconds.
"I'm a pretty confident basketball player," Cobb said. "Even though things weren't going my way the whole game, I knew if I got the ball I was going to score."
Cobb hit a running pull-up in the lane with 2.3 seconds left to give Northwestern a 63-61 comeback victory over IUPUI on Friday night.
Cobb finished with eight points on 4-for-13 shooting. Drew Crawford led the Wildcats with 12 points, all in the second half, and Dave Sobolewski added 10.
The Wildcats (3-2) trailed by 11 points midway through the second half before rallying.
Ian Chiles led IUPUI (1-4) with a game-high 19 points and Mitch Patton had 18.
Northwestern took a 59-55 lead with 2:29 left on three Sobolewski free throws, but IUPUI rallied and tied the score on a pair of Patton free throws with 20 seconds left, setting the stage for Cobb's heroics. Cobb got the ball on the left wing and drove to the lane just inside the foul line before pulling up for the shot. The ball bounced off the rim and backboard before dropping through.
"JerShon, it wasn't one of his best nights, but he came through with a big play in the end," Wildcats coach Chris Collins said.
The same could be said of Northwestern, which rallied for its second straight win despite going 24-for-58 (41.4 percent) from the field, including 5-for-16 from three-point range.
"Our margin for error is very slim; I'm OK with that," Collins said. "We gave them confidence early, you're down by 10 or 11 or whatever it was with 10 minutes to go. It certainly wasn't looking good. But there's a lot of fight in our locker room. I promise you, we'll never quit or give up until the final buzzer. We just hung in there. We finally hit a few shots, the game got closer and they got tighter and we finally got the lead, which was huge.
"We would not have won that game if we didn't play hard. I'm proud of the way our guys dug down and got it done."
Northwestern got off to a slow start, falling behind as much as 11 points in the first half (21-10) and trailed 31-28 at halftime.
Sobolewski, after scoring a career-high 25 points on Wednesday at UIC, had two first-half points on 1-for-5 shooting, and Cobb had two points on 1-for-6 shooting. Crawford, who entered with a team-high average of 17.8 points, missed his only three shots before the intermission.
"JerShon and I both have a scoring role on this team," Crawford said. "We need to score the basketball and we need to get out there leading. Both of us struggled with that in the first half. We weren't doing it, we weren't playing our role, we weren't leading the team. That's something that can't happen. It's something we have to learn from and move on because we can't play like that and hope to win."
Crawford opened the second-half scoring with a layup to trim the deficit to a point, but IUPUI quickly regained command and stretched the lead to 49-38 on a three-point play by Chiles with 10:18 remaining.
Despite the big deficit, Crawford said the players never lost confidence.
"(Our mindset was) we just we needed to fight," Crawford said. "That's what it comes down to — who's playing harder, who's fighting for the win. It's something that we really needed to do. Just switching our defense gave us a little bit of push and gave us some momentum. We really played hard to finish that game."
Northwestern then answered with 10 straight points to make it 49-48 with 8:46 to play. Chiles ended the streak with a pair of free throws, but center Alex Olah had back-to-back baskets to give Northwestern a 52-51 lead with 6:20 left — its first since 8-7 less than five minutes into the game.
IUPUI tied the score on a pair of Patton free throws with 20 seconds left setting the stage for Cobb's heroics.
IUPUI then missed a half-court shot at the buzzer.
"Once I got the ball, I waited until about eight seconds to see where I was going to make my move," Cobb said. "I was hoping to get the shot off as time would expire so they wouldn't get a shot, but it worked out."