Each Big Ten win seems to be the biggest for Northwestern and Chris Collins, but it's hard to imagine anything bigger than Wednesday night's road win over Wisconsin.
Then again, it was hard to imagine the Cats winning a road game over Wisconsin in the first place.
It's something that hadn't been done since 1996, something that had never been done at the Kohl Center. Few teams beat Bo Ryan at the Kohl Center. Northwestern never beats Bo Ryan at the Kohl Center. That is, until Wednesday.
Northwestern did the improbable, the unthinkable, in a remarkable 65-56 upset of the Badgers in Madison.
"Obviously a tremendous, tremendous win for our team, for our program," Collins said after the game. "I have so much respect for this Wisconsin program, and I know how tough it is to play in this building. A couple years ago, brought a team in here that was the national championship team and we got our tails kicked, so I know what their winning percentage is, I know how good they are and what a great coach coach Ryan is. So for us to be able to come in here and get a win is very special for our team and especially for our guys."
They did it the way they've surprisingly amassed a four-win record in Big Ten play — one that now includes a pair of road wins at Indiana and Wisconsin — with excellent defense and a team-carrying offensive performance by Drew Crawford. A defense that has smothered opposing offenses did perhaps its most impressive job yet, holding the Badgers to 26.3-percent shooting. Meanwhile, Crawford scored a whopping 30 of the team's 65 points, the highest point total in a Big Ten win for the Cats this season.
It's just the latest example of how far Collins has brought his team in a short period of time. The Cats opened Big Ten play against this same Badger team and were run out of Welsh-Ryan Arena, 76-49. But now the Cats are winners of four of their last six games, a much different team than the one that was tossed around by the then-undefeated Badgers. Wednesday, Northwestern outscored, out-rebounded and out-assisted Wisconsin.
"We played this team a month ago and it was 40-14 at halftime, and it probably would have been even more if coach Ryan didn’t have sympathy for us that night and call off the dogs," Collins said. "In one month’s time we have become a very tough group, and we’ve had to become tough because we have had a hard time scoring, a hard time with certain things. So we’ve had to win with our defense and our rebounding."
Northwestern's progress is one thing, the results are another. In this year's parity-ridden Big Ten, only three teams — Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa — have more conference wins than the Wildcats.
No matter how you slice it, that's mighty impressive.