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finally The Daily Northwestern March 13, 2017


2 NEWS | THE DAILY NORTHWESTERN

LETTER FROM THE EDITORS

The winter NU became a basketball school and finally learned to dance

Ending one of the most seemingly immutable streaks of futility in college sports history required quite the journey. Northwestern entered this season with hopes high but somewhat tempered expectations following the graduations of starters

MONDAY, MARCH 13, 2017 Alex Olah and Tre Demps. Even those looking through the most purple-colored of glasses hardly could have imagined what was to come. But as the wins rolled up in December and January, a palpable hype grew on campus. For one wacky winter, NU became a basketball school. Students packed Welsh-Ryan Arena for conference wins over “real” hoops schools like Iowa and Indiana. They stormed the court when NU likely sealed its visit to The Dance with a win over Michigan, and they shook the building when Purdue visited for the season finale with CBS’ primetime crew in tow. Covering this magical Cats team proved a

journey in and of itself. From the start, there were hints that this NU team had the punch to snap the infamous streak. And as the victories piled up, the possibility that we were playing witness to history transformed into a reality. These Cats marched their way into school history, and through the heartbreak and ecstasy, we were fortunate to document this journey that will never be forgotten. After all, who can forget their first dance? — Tim Balk, Garrett Jochnau and Max Schuman editors of the special issue

Good thing Northwestern will never be a team that’s never been to the NCAA Tournament again, because this whole first-time thing’s been stressful. It was stressful because it was MANDATORY to be at the Wildcats’ first taste of the tournament, which meant entire mornings lost to booking contingency flights and hotel rooms at sites around the country, followed by that utterly helpless feeling of waiting. I haven’t traveled to cover the NCAA tournament since 2007, when I followed USC to Washington state and then New Jersey for my Los Angeles Times column. I’d forgotten how unsettling it can be to have your travel plans in

NU alums leave press box behind in D.C.

We were scattered across several sections of the Verizon Center on Thursday and Friday night in Washington, D.C., journalists who would otherwise be confined to the press box or a TV booth, but not on these two nights. At the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament, as at all sporting events, there would of course be no cheering in the press box — so we wouldn’t be in the press box, because there just had to be cheering. This season of all seasons, there would be cheering. At the start of the Northwestern-Rutgers game, I was sitting with the Medill classmate I met first

www.dailynorthwestern.com Editor in Chief Julia Jacobs

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ALUMNI PERSPECTIVES

Scrambling our way to March Madness

The Daily Northwestern

Campus desk

the hands of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee. And I’d never been so emotionally attached to a result as I have been for this, this need to watch my alma mater and now employer participate in the greatest American sports event. Then the magic moment finally happened and the Cats were sent to Salt Lake City, the one place I hadn’t accounted for, and I was too busy scrambling to buy airline tickets to pay much attention to the joyous leaps and jubilant sounds at Welsh-Ryan Arena on my TV. It wasn’t until later, when the flights and game tickets had been secured, when the CBS show was over and I switched to the Bracketology special on ESPN and saw them lead the twohour show with a clip of the Cats celebrating, that I could set my concerns and emotions aside

and simply feel good for those who made it possible. For every alumni email chain making the rounds this past week, for every student and administrator who went to Welsh-Ryan on Sunday to be a part of it and even for the coaches who succeeded where all of their predecessors had failed, this belonged to the players. They rushed out of their seats left everyone behind, gathered in a circle, jumped around and pumped their fists and locked arms broke out molar-revealing smiles and reveled in this creation that was all of their making. I’ve never been more appreciative for one group that gave me so much added work and worry.

day of freshman year, ESPN’s Michael Wilbon. How many dozens of NU sporting events had we witnessed side-by-side over the past four decades? Football, lacrosse, men’s and women’s hoops, you name it. But had there ever been an event that was more hard-earned and uplifting than this one? Later I joined my family not far from the NU bench. A few rows away was NBC’s Peter Alexander. Not far from him was CNN’s David Chalian. ESPN’s Kevin Blackistone was just beyond him. We were all wearing purple, of course. The Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein and Big Ten Network’s Dave Revsine were there too, actually working on press row, but they broke away to appear in an NU alum group photo. You know what a certain man living and

working a few blocks away at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. would call all of us? The enemy of the people. Well, over these two nights, we were simply the enemy of Rutgers and Maryland. The easy victory over Rutgers led to a matchup with Maryland the next night. Did we dare to dream of another victory? We did, and it happened. And now it’s March Madness, with something even greater awaiting this week. At Northwestern, this never happens to us. Until it just did.

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J.A. Adande (Medill ‘92) is a former Daily sports editor, the director of sports journalism at Medill and an ESPN contributor.

Christine Brennan (Medill ’80, ’81) is a former Daily managing editor. She is a sports columnist and commentator for USA Today, ABC News, CNN and NPR, and serves on Northwestern’s Board of Trustees.

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THE DAILY NORTHWESTERN | NEWS 3

MONDAY, MARCH 13, 2017

Rejuvenated Lindsey pushes NU into The Dance

Following breakout campaign, shooting guard looks to keep rolling on college basketball’s biggest stage By TIM BALK

daily senior staffer @timbalk

When a combination of sickness and back problems sidelined Scottie Lindsey for the much of February, it didn’t just momentarily derail his stellar season. It nearly derailed Northwestern’s. The Wildcats ended January on a high. A six game-winning streak had just earned them their first ranking in the AP Top 25 Poll since 2009 and, with 18 victories already to their name, they seemed a near lock for a program-first trip to The Dance. But then Lindsey went down, and NU lost three out of four with the junior guard on the bench. If any doubts lingered about how much Lindsey means to this year’s squad, the stretch quickly did away with them. After pacing the team in scoring for the first three months of the season, the 6-foot-5 swingman had no choice but to watch in frustration. “Every moment I wished I was out there,” Lindsey said. “Even when we beat Wisconsin, I wished I was out there. But that didn’t make me not happy for the guys that they won that game. And that didn’t make me not want to be a great teammate and console the guys when they lost.” Lindsey finally returned in a sloppy but crucial win over Rutgers on Feb. 18, playing 24 minutes and scoring 6 points. He spent the past few weeks “gutting it out,” in the word of coach Chris Collins, as he worked himself back into game shape. Eventually, the Cats rediscovered their groove, with Lindsey helping to lead the charge. Even not at 100 percent, Lindsey provided extra offensive pop for the Cats in their win against Michigan to kick off the month of March and all but guarantee themselves a spot in the NCAA Tournament. He scored 9 in the win. “Having (Lindsey) back has been really nice,” junior guard Bryant McIntosh said before the Big Ten Tournament. “Having him on the defensive end has also been huge for us — his length and ability to guard one through four is also really helpful.” When Lindsey is at his best, the Cats are at their best. A solid defender on the wing, he further

Daily file photo by Jacob Morgan

Scottie Lindsey dribbles. The junior guard emerged as one of Northwestern’s leaders this season.

solidifies one of the Big Ten’s best defenses. And for a team that struggles at times to manufacture points, the sweet-shooting, easy-scoring guard can rejuvenate their scoring attack. NU exploded offensively in Big Ten Tournament wins over Rutgers and Maryland, with Lindsey putting in an efficient 33 points on 54.2 percent shooting in the two victories. From the beginning, NU’s special season hinged on Lindsey’s emergence. A year ago, he was a streaky role player for the Cats who hit jumpers in bunches off the bench but couldn’t seem to earn Collins’ trust. Collins said he and Lindsey had a “tough

meeting,” after the season in which he challenged the young guard. “He said things, I said things. We tried to come together,” Collins said. “He was willing to embrace change and to try to become better. To try to become a better player, a better teammate, a better leader. And he did all those things.” Lindsey said the meeting still sticks with him. “It’s just something that I can look back on and just show to myself where I’ve come from,” Lindsey said, “and how hard I’ve worked, and how hard I have to work every day just to keep myself to where I am right now.” Right now, Lindsey is headed to the NCAA

• • • • •

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Tournament, seemingly finally healthy and with a coaches’ All-Big Ten third team selection in his pocket. He more than doubled his scoring output from 6.4 points per game as a sophomore to 14.2 this season. He stepped up and became the leader Collins wanted him to be. He braved the long month of February and delivered when the Cats have needed him late. Entering the NCAAs, Lindsey is back in a groove. And NU is back on track, rolling to a destination the program has never reached before. timothybalk2018@u.northwestern.edu

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4 NEWS | THE DAILY NORTHWESTERN

Athletic director Jim Phillips talks historic team By DAILY SPORTS STAFF

the daily northwestern

Prior to Northwestern’s visit to the Big Ten Tournament, The Daily spoke with athletic director Jim Phillips, who has led the department since 2008. With the men’s basketball team on the verge of making history, Phillips discussed their special season and a number of other topics. His answers have been edited for length and clarity. The Daily: Northwestern’s season finale against Purdue was a pretty special moment. Did you ever envision something like that coming into the season? Phillips: It started four years ago when we decided to make a change in our coaching staff. And when Chris (Collins) and I met in Atlanta, I think we shared a very similar vision for Northwestern basketball, what it could be like. To this point (Purdue) is the closest that we’ve been to that dream coming true — relative to a home crowd and home court college basketball venue that we had both hoped we could get it to. It was pretty spectacular. The Daily: Has there been a specific highlight that stands out to you in this past season? Phillips: The moment (against Purdue) was special. Obviously, the dramatic conclusion to the Michigan game and what that meant. When we went to Nebraska early in the year, Nebraska was undefeated (in conference) and we gave out a big run right before the half. That was one of those moments, when we came back in the second half, that I thought to myself, ‘this team’s got it, this team has a chance to potentially do something special.’ The Daily: Are there any specific players you’ve enjoyed watching grow this year? Phillips: All of them. Really, because this is the ultimate team sport. And they all need to provide some type of leadership. They all have a role within the team, and they all do it remarkably well. So it doesn’t matter if you’re Charlie Hall and Tino Malnati, you have to bring energy to every practice and be uplifting to the guys, keep them positive. Or, if you’re Aaron Falzon and Rapolas Ivanauskas, and you’re injured and you have to play your role. Or if you’re Jordan Ash or Barret Benson or any of the guys coming off the bench, of if you’re one of the starters, everybody has a role and responsibility. And so to me, that’s been the beauty of this. It hasn’t been because of one person. It hasn’t been because of a couple people. It’s been because of the entire team.

MONDAY, MARCH 13, 2017

THE DAILY NORTHWESTERN | NEWS 5

MONDAY, MARCH 13, 2017

1.15.17

12.3.16

vs. Iowa 89 - 54

vs. DePaul 80 - 64

“When I took this thing over four years ago, and you walk in Welsh-Ryan and it’s dark — all of us are kind of dreamers at heart — you close your eyes and you envision a night like tonight.” - coach Chris Collins

“We wanted to come out in the game just firing.” - junior guard Scottie Lindsey

ascension

NOV.

DEC.

JA N.

FEB .

2.12.17

11.28.16

@ Wisconsin 66 - 59

vs. Wake Forest 65 - 58

“Coming down the stretch, we knew what plays we had to make.” - sophomore forward Vic Law

“That was kind of a good old-fashioned fist fight.” - coach Chris Collins

The Daily: With Welsh-Ryan set to undergo renovation, is there anything you’ll miss about the old Welsh-Ryan? Do you have a favorite WelshRyan memory? Phillips: When I think about the renovation, is that we get a chance to still keep some of the past and still keep some of the uniqueness of a facility like Welsh-Ryan, but modernize it. So, I think we’re getting the best of both worlds coming up, which I’m excited about. The most special moment, from a men’s basketball perspective is (the Michigan game). That’s the moment I’ll always remember.

MAR.

3.1.17

vs. Michigan 67 - 65 “This is why we all came here. ...We knew coming in that if we wanted to be different, then this was the game that we needed to take.” - sophomore forward Vic Law

Daily file photo by Rachel Dubner, Timeline by Jerry Lee

In rollercoaster season, Northwestern fulfills belief

Despite tempered expectations, injuries along the way, Wildcats find way to school’s first NCAA tourney By BEN POPE

The Daily Northwestern

daily senior staffer @benpope111

Men’s Basketball Special Issue Editors Tim Balk Julia Jacobs Garrett Jochnau Marissa Page Max Schuman Designers Rachel Dubner Jerry Lee Colin Lynch

Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Dererk Pardon takes the court. The Wildcats’ sophomore center was one of a handful of Northwestern players whose improvement helped the program make history.

Six months ago, when Northwestern fans were focused on the football team’s homecoming win and March itself — much less its Madness — felt like a distant afterthought, coach Chris Collins called on five players to evolve from “wildcards” to constant contributors. If Scottie Lindsey, Vic Law and Dererk Pardon, as well as Gavin Skelly and Aaron Falzon, could “do what we feel they can do and believe they can do,” Collins said in October, “then we can have an outstanding season.” But would an outstanding season equate to the Wildcats’ first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance? Even Collins seemed to doubt that. “The goal is to have a program that is good every year and is in the mix to be a tournament team every year, and we’re not there yet,” he added. “We’re still working towards that.” Yet Sunday afternoon, 146 days and a programrecord 23 wins later, Lindsey, Law and Pardon — the team’s second-leading scorer, defensive ace and leading rebounder, respectively — celebrated just that in a

glorious mosh pit of relief and tears and leaps for joy. In the middle of it was Collins, basking in the moment. “To see all of this, it gets you emotional, because these are the things we all dreamed of,” Collins said. “I remember sitting in their living rooms and just asking them to believe. I said, ‘Look, I have nothing tangible, I can’t show you any banners, I can’t show any pros that I’ve coached as a head coach. … I just want you to believe in this.’” To fully grasp the possibilities of this season, however, required heartbreak along the way. First, a crushing 70-68 loss at Butler on Nov. 16, when the Cats gave up a basket with two seconds left to fall to an eventual No. 4 seed. On the bus afterward, Collins said he had an epiphany: “We’ve got a chance to be good.” Second, a deflating 70-66 loss to Notre Dame on Nov. 22, when Nathan Taphorn’s errant pass squandered the Cats’ lead with 14 seconds left and taught the senior forward a lesson about the importance of inbounding. Third, a devastating 63-62 loss to Indiana on Feb. 25, when NU squandered a 7-point lead in the final 80 seconds and left itself seemingly in need of a win in its final two regular season games. Injuries, too, plagued the Cats, as Falzon spent the

entire season recovering from knee surgery, Pardon missed eight games with a broken hand and Lindsey was sidelined for the middle of the conference schedule with mononucleosis and back issues. Amid all the turbulence, the team picked up the quality wins they needed to make the bulk of their season a success: an early-season victory over Texas that convinced Law his team “could be really special,” a comeback over ACC upstart Wake Forest, a dominant 35-point rout of Iowa, a back-and-forth win at Wisconsin without Lindsey’s services. But then the calendar turned to March, and NU tournament’s resume appeared in desperate need of one last win, and from the heartbreak emerged the one moment that will never be surpassed in Evanston lore. Against Michigan, Taphorn redeemed himself, throwing a pinpoint inbounds pass on Pardon’s iconic buzzer-beating layup and sealing the necessary bidclinching win the Cats had let slip. A week and a half later, following Big Ten Tournament wins over Rutgers and Maryland and the team’s first-ever appearance in the conference semifinals, that bid was fulfilled. “To finally to be over the hump is so fantastic,” Law said. “To come where we’ve come and finally be here, and not be on the bubble but be in the

tournament, feels great.” NU’s focus will now turn to Thursday’s matchup in Salt Lake City against ninth-seeded Vanderbilt, which won seven of its last nine games in the SEC to earn its second consecutive tournament appearance. Shortly after the ecstasy of hearing NU’s name announced in the bracket, Collins spoke about his friendship with Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew, his familiarity with tournament logistics from his days as a Duke assistant and his need to start watching film of the Commodores on Sunday night. Belief fulfilled and ticket punched, his job responsibilities continued in earnest. So perhaps it was fitting that the duty of providing the big-picture nostalgia fell on fifth-year senior forward Sanjay Lumpkin, the only member of the team to predate Collins and one of the few the coach didn’t call on last October to step up with more consistency. “You think back to the Michigan moment, the big wins we’ve had this year, the run we made in the Big Ten tournament — we’ve had a lot of very special moments,” Lumpkin said. “We’ve had a lot of ‘first this,’ ‘first that’ this season, and it’s just been a year that I’ll never forget.” benjaminpope2019@u.northwestern.edu


6 NEWS | THE DAILY NORTHWESTERN

MONDAY, MARCH 13, 2017

McIntosh guides Wildcats into uncharted territory By BOBBY PILLOTE

daily senior staffer @bobbypillote

Chris Collins didn’t mince words Tuesday ahead of the Big Ten tournament. All-conference teams had just been announced, and Northwestern’s coach wasn’t happy his star junior point guard received second team honors. “I thought (Bryant McIntosh) should have been on the first team, quite frankly,” Collins said. Collins’ candid support of McIntosh comes as no surprise. Collins, himself a former point guard at Duke, got the Wildcats to the NCAA tournament promised land by building a team whose success hinges on No. 30’s play. It is hard to ignore the similarities between the Cats’ two leaders. Collins faced his share of adversity during his playing days, dragging then-obscure Glenbrook North High School to basketball relevance and earning All-ACC honors in a comeback senior season with the Blue Devils. McIntosh, similarly, had to grapple with NU’s ignominy as a recruit and has slogged through two losing

seasons to get to this point. “It’s not a period I like to look back on,” McIntosh said. “But seeing how far this program has come is something that I can take a lot of pride in.” He’s right to be proud considering the blows that stood to derail NU’s season. Sophomore forward Aaron Falzon, a key contributor a year ago, didn’t even suit up for a game. Sophomore center Dererk Pardon sat out eight contests and junior guard Scottie Lindsey missed four. Through it all McIntosh was always there, playing more minutes and taking more shots than anybody else on the team while breaking a program record for assists along the way. “You have injury, you have illness, that’s part of going through a long season,” McIntosh said. “Especially in the Big Ten, it’s an absolute grind. I just try not to put too much pressure on myself and try to help my team find a way to win.” Such an unflappable level of cool is probably McIntosh’s calling card, even more so than the slick passing, timely 3-point shots and wispy floaters that have come to define his game. And like his tremendous talent, that degree of confidence is also something that’s been carefully nurtured by Collins. “We’re much older, we’re much more

experienced,” McIntosh said when asked what makes this year’s squad special. “Now we’ve found ways to win close games. … That doesn’t mean we win every close game, but we at least feel like we should win it.” That attitude was on display Friday during a surprising upset win over No. 25 Maryland. Down 10 in the second half, McIntosh hit a corner 3 to spark a 20-2 run that ultimately pushed NU to victory. And if there’s another big shot to be taken this season, it’s a safe bet the ball will be in McIntosh’s hands. “I’ve never been afraid of taking the gamewinning shot,” McIntosh said. “I’ve made a lot in my life and I’m not afraid to lose; I’m not afraid to fail.” One might expect the Cats to be a little more nervous heading into their first-ever NCAA tournament, but that simply isn’t the case. With McIntosh as his floor general, Collins has NU in a clear state of mind. “You don’t get a lot of chances to play for championships,” Collins said. “If you can’t get excited about playing now, then you shouldn’t be playing.” bpillote@u.northwestern.edu

Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Bryant McIntosh handles the ball. The junior guard helped lead Northwestern to its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.

Demps, Olah reflect on Northwestern’s historic season By GARRETT JOCHNAU

daily senior staffer @garrettjochnau

On March 1, sophomore center Dererk Pardon scored off a miracle heave from senior forward Nathan Taphorn with 1.7 seconds remaining to lift the Wildcats over Michigan. An ocean away, Northwestern alumnus Tre Demps awoke just in time to watch the historic sequence. “My heart was racing,” said Demps, who graduated in 2016 and is currently playing professionally in Belgium. “It was a surreal moment, just seeing the hard work from those guys pay off.”

The basket was more than your average buzzer-beater, and was worth a lot more than just 2 points. After 78 years without an NCAA Tournament appearance, the Cats — whose push to end the drought can be found in their “Pound the Rock” mantra — saw the rock split in two. And though Demps and his fellow NU alumni are no longer on the roster, the Cats of seasons past are watching their alma mater proudly, hoping their contributions helped set the stage for the historic moment. “I want to think that I helped to get the program where it is now,” Alex Olah said. “Now it’s time for these guys and the next generations to take it to the next level.” Olah also graduated in 2016, and is currently

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playing alongside Demps for Belfius MonsHainaut in the Belgian League. The duo’s time in Evanston spanned two distinct periods of NU basketball. Recruited under former coach Bill Carmody, Demps and Olah carried the Cats into the Chris Collins era, where they saw the seeds planted for the record-breaking 2016-17 campaign. And while they could not join their former teammates on the Welsh-Ryan Arena floor, Demps and Olah followed NU on its seasonlong journey from their homes in Europe. “We’ve watched every Sunday noon-ish game together,” Demps said. “We can call out all the plays, we laugh at coach Collins — we know what he’s yelling. So it’s a lot of fun reminiscing.” As the Cats depart on the the next portion

of the journey, Olah is confident in the team, admiring its “toughness” and “togetherness.” “I’m going to have them go all the way to the championship game,” Olah said with a laugh. “I don’t care about my bracket.” But the team’s visit to The Dance won’t be without nostalgia. Just a year removed from the team, Olah said he never anticipated how much he would miss NU. “Seeing what they accomplished this year, I wished every moment that I was back there and battling with them,” Olah said. “Knowing that they’re going to go to the tournament, you want to be there even more. It’s bittersweet, but I’m so proud.” jochnau@u.northwestern.edu

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THE DAILY NORTHWESTERN | NEWS 7

MONDAY, MARCH 13, 2017

Charting Northwestern’s shooting in Big Ten play Over the course of the Big Ten season, The Daily has charted every shot taken by Northwestern and kept track of the team’s important shooting trends. Here are a few observations from conference play. For more, visit apps.dailynorthwestern.com/ shotcharts.

Bryant McIntosh, junior guard

McIntosh has become known for his signature floater, a critical component of his dribble-drive arsenal, as represented by his high percentage near the basket and in midrange areas. His dribble pull-up is one of the best in the Big Ten, and the

numbers in the short corners show it, as he shot a combined 52 percent in the two zones during conference season. McIntosh’s main inconsistency lies in his contrasting numbers on the right and left sides of the court — those on the right are notably higher than those on the left. This might not be surprising for the right-handed Mcintosh, though, who also receives a majority of his ball screens, and subsequent open looks, from the right side.

Scottie Lindsey, junior guard

Lindsey was the posterchild for an interesting

team-wide trend, and he helped carry the team to its most inexplicable shooting split on the season. When facing the basket, the team shot nearly 20 percent better from the right wing behind the arc than from the opposite wing. Lindsey shot 39.1 percent from the right wing himself, going 9-for-23 from that spot. From the left wing, he shot a grisly 3-for-25, and only made one 3 from that zone before his 2-for-4 explosion in the final regular season game against Purdue. This extreme split left him shooting only 29 percent from 3-point range in conference play, an unencouraging clip given that he put

up just less than half his shots from 3.

Gavin Skelly, junior forward

NU’s first big man off the bench flashed a versatile offensive game early in the season, but that never really materialized as the Cats entered Big Ten play. Skelly did offer some spacing as a pickand-pop option, connecting on a solid 41 percent of his straight-away 3s, but showed little ability to score from other areas on the floor. Skelly hit just 43 percent of his layup attempts, a dismal clip for someone his size and the worst rate on the team among players with more than six such shots.

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Summit Shopping Center (847) 318-7337

Offer good Monday-Saturday only Offer good only at restaurants listed Limit one offer per coupon

jiffy lube ® Oil chaNge Mon. - Fri. 6:30 a.m. to Service 2:30 p.m. SigNatUre Sat. - Sun. 7:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Offer 11/19/07 Offer expires 10/22/07

NU students, faculty and staff show your Wildcard & receive $10 OFF oil change With this coupon. Coupon Code NW1

jiffy lube • 1941 W. Dempster

Evanston (just west of Dodge) 847-328-5222 • Mon-Fri 8-6, Sat 8-5, Sun 10-3


JOIN NOW, $0 ENROLLMENT! Visit club for details. Offer expires 3/25/17.

Evanston Athletic Club | 1723 Benson Ave. | 847-866-6190

ChicagoAthleticClubs.com EAC_NU_0916_$0_10.333x15.875.indd 1

3/6/2017 5:56:12 PM

The Daily Northwestern – March 13, 2017  
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