Negus' 3-pointer helps Cougars escape with victory
JANESVILLE--Jake Negus didn’t have time to dissect the entire situation.
All the Craig freshman knew was that he and the Cougars had squandered a 16-point fourth-quarter lead and that only a last-second 3-pointer would give them a chance to escape.
Negus buried a wild 3-pointer from the corner as time expired to force overtime, and Craig picked up its intensity defensively to flee with a 71-65 come-from-ahead victory over Madison Edgewood on Friday night. The home nonconference victory improved the Cougars to 3-0.
“We shouldn’t have even let it get to that point, but I’m just glad I made it,” Negus said. “It was a pretty wild shot. I felt like I had a look; I had space, so I just got it off and hoped it went in.”
Trailing 61-58 with 13 seconds left in regulation, the Cougars used a timeout to set up senior Mike Murphy with an outside look. His shot drew iron and deflected out of bounds, giving Craig the ball with less than three ticks left.
The inbound pass went to the freshman, Negus, who rose up for the desperation heave.
“We didn’t have time to run a set out-of-bounds play,” Craig coach Mike Miller said. “So we got a half-decent look and he knocked it down. What a great job by a freshman.”
Negus hadn’t attempted a shot since the first quarter, but he went on to hit three free throws in overtime to help seal the victory.
That it even came down to that was a bit of a head-scratcher.
Logan Carlson’s put-back layup gave Craig a 50-34 lead in the early minutes of the fourth quarter, and it appeared the Cougars would cruise. Instead, Edgewood came storming back on the shoulders of senior guards Jeff Zellner and Alex Wendler.
“They were in the bonus pretty much the whole fourth quarter, so they took it to the hoop,” Negus said. “It was smart of them to do that.”
The two guards each buried a 3-pointer to give the Crusaders some confidence, and then they began a persistent attack toward the rim. Zellner scored 18 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, while Wendler scored 17 in the second half.
“I saw Edgewood play earlier and they play extremely hard, and they play a style of basketball that keeps them in the game,” Miller said. “I give them credit for coming back and knocking down big shots.”
Edgewood went 8 of 9 from the floor and 9 of 11 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, but saw its comeback bid decimated by Negus’ stunning shot.
The Cougars held the Crusaders to 2-for-8 shooting from the field in the overtime period.
Four Craig players finished in double figures, led by junior James Morgan with 14 points. But the team was once again plagued by turnovers (20) and missed free throws (14).
“The bright spot is those are all things that I think we can work on and get better at,” Miller said. “And it’s much easier to work on them when you have a win.”
Craig is back in action at Madison East on Tuesday night.