UPDATED: DePaul men’s basketball narrowly triumphs Northwestern 57-56

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[Updated 12:10 a.m. CST, Saturday, Dec. 28]

This is exactly what freshman Billy Garrett Jr. was brought in to do.

He shot just 33 percent and had four turnovers, but none of that mattered Friday. As long as Garrett could come up with clutch plays like did countless times in high school, the Blue Demons would flourish behind the 19-year-old’s leadership.

After calling for the ball on a fastbreak, Garrett’s poise as a freshman led the Blue Demons to victory. 

Garrett hit the first buzzer-beater of his collegiate career to lift DePaul men’s basketball over Northwestern 57-56 in the final four seconds.

“It was a great experience,” Garrett Jr. said. “I was calling for it and Nugget (Durrell McDonald) made a great pass. Coach talked about a six-minute game. We stuck together and came out with the victory.”

The game-winning play came when Durrell McDonald connected with Garrett after the guard broke his shot midair and caught Garrett in the corner of his eye, just under the basket.  Garrett put the ball up with just .08 seconds remaining and the ball rolled around the rim to fall in the bucket. 

The play went to review, but was upheld.

“I was going to take a shot but I looked at the basket to see how much time was left,” McDonald said. “Bill called my name and I knew in my head that we only needed a two pointer instead of a three so I made the pass and we got the win.”

Things looked bleak for the Blue Demons (8-5) when Northwestern’s Dave Montgomery hit a wide-open three pointer with four seconds left to give the Wildcats a one-point lead. 

DePaul squandered the opportunity to put the game away with free throws after leading 55-51 with 33 seconds remaining.  The Blue Demons went 14-29 on free throw attempts.

“Free throws are important and we just kept shooting ourselves in the foot by not converting it and allowing them to stay in it,” head coach Oliver Purnell said.

Barring the exciting finish, the game was a hard-fought, slugfest throughout. Both teams shot under 40 percent, including an ugly 28 percent in the first half.

 The Blue Demons finished the game by shooting 36.8 percent (21-57) while Northwestern shot a worse 32.1 percent (17-53).

DePaul led 28-23 at halftime.

Northwestern’s Tre Demps scored 23 points and got his team a 50-49 lead with 50 seconds left.

DePaul answered back and center Sandi Marcius came up with two critical three-point conversions late. Marcius got to the line after converting a layup in the post and getting fouled on a breakaway dunk.

Marcius finished with 12 points and five rebounds.

“He was big for us,” Purnell said. “His size and physicality was a factor. He makes big plays on the offensive end to help us win the game. I thought he was huge.”

This was DePaul’s first win in Evanston since 1995 and the last of their non-conference schedule. The team will now head to Washington D.C. where they take on Georgetown in the first Big East conference game of the season.

“We really needed this game,” Purnell said. “If we made free throws, I’d say we played pretty well. We kept changing some things and our guys adjusted pretty well. Northwestern changed some things and we adjusted again. It was good to play on the road and get the win.”