Bill Carmody had seen enough. With just over 16 minutes to play Wednesday night, the Northwestern coach called timeout, peeled off his jacket and went to work in a huddle.
His Wildcats had led by 10 points late in the first half, and now they trailed by two.
NCAA tournament time, the Wildcats fell 57-56 before a sold-out crowd at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
The Wildcats finally did stage a rally after going down 55-47 with 1:43 to play.
JerShon Cobb hit a free throw, and Alex Marcotullio hit a 3. Illinois' Meyers Leonard missed from in close, and Cobb fed John Shurna for a 3-pointer with 36.3 seconds to play.
The Wildcats tied it at 56-56 on a Drew Crawford tip-in with 30 seconds to play.
Illinois' Brandon Paul drove the lane and Crawford stepped in to take a charge, but none was called. Myke Henry got fouled on his tip-in attempt and made one free throw.
With six seconds left, Crawford drove it the length of the floor. Leonard swatted his game-winning shot attempt.
Northwestern went as Shurna did. He scored 17 first-half points, hitting a 3-pointer to give the Wildcats a 36-26 lead, their largest of the game.
But he didn't score again until 36 seconds remained in the game, a span of nearly 23 minutes.
Illinois' Brandon Paul did a terrific job defending him in the second half, as Shurna went just 1-for-7 after the break.
Drew Crawford had a tough night, scoring nine points on 3-for-11 shooting. Same for freshman point guard Dave Sobolewski, who didn't score until 37 minutes into the game and missed all four of his 3-point tries.
The Wildcats fell to 11-4, 1-2 in the Big Ten. And they'll be big underdogs in their next four games (at Michigan, Michigan State, at Wisconsin, at Minnesota).
Northwestern falls to Illinois 57-56 at home
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