LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) -- To hear Northwestern coach Bill Carmody
tell it, nothing went right for his Wildcats: Their best player was
exhausted, their center didn't rebound, and Lehigh just played
"We did a lot of dumb things," Carmody said.
But they did one thing right -- with the game on the line, they
gave Vedran Vukusic the ball.
Vukusic scored 25 points, including the go-ahead basket with
12.8 seconds left, as Northwestern came back from a double-digit
deficit to beat Lehigh 61-59 Sunday night in the first round of the
Black Coaches Association Invitational.
The plan was to get Vukusic the ball on an inbound play, but
even Carmody had his doubts.
"He's our best player, but he's exhausted," Carmody said. "I
wanted to take him out, give him a break."
After Vukusic's jumper from the corner, Evan Seacat recovered a
loose ball on Lehigh's end of the court and was intentionally
fouled by Mitch Gilfillan with 5.6 seconds left. Seacat made one
free throw, and Vukusic, fouled on the inbound play, hit two more
to put the game out of reach.
Northwestern (1-0) will face Charlotte in Monday's semifinals;
Lehigh (0-1) will play Coppin State in the consolation bracket.
"I think they deserved to win," Carmody said of Lehigh. "They
were prepared, they had a game plan, executed it. We were very,
very lucky to get out of there."
Lucky, but it wasn't all luck. Down by 12 at one point, the
Wildcats scrapped their way back into the game, chipping away at
the lead early in the second half while also shutting down Lehigh's
Jose Olivero, who had 16 first-half points.
"Everyone remembers the last five minutes of the game, but it
was the first five minutes of the second half that determined this
game," Lehigh coach Billy Taylor said.
After trailing the entire first half, the Wildcats tied the game
at 37 on a pair of Vince Scott free throws, then took their first
lead, 40-38, on Scott's 3-pointer with 13:12 left.
After that, the lead changed 10 times before Vukusic's go-ahead
shot, with neither team leading by more than three points until the
And, just as important, they shut down Olivero, who almost
single-handedly built Lehigh's first-half lead. After scoring 16
points in the first half, his only second-half basket was a
3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left.
Tim Doyle added 14 points for Northwestern.
Olivero scored the first eight points in a 10-2 Lehigh run in
the first half, first hitting a pair of free throws, then sinking a
pair of 3-pointers. Jason Mgebroff's layup with 11:12 left gave the
Mountain Hawks an 18-7 lead.
Doyle had a steal and a fast break basket, then scored on
another break off a Mohamed Hachad steal, during a 10-0 run that
brought the Wildcats within 20-18. But Lehigh closed the half with
an 8-3 run and led 28-21 at halftime.