KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Chris Collins watched helplessly from the sideline as Northwestern blew most of a 20-point first-half lead against Missouri in the consolation game of the CBE Classic.
His first two years in charge, Collins would have ultimately been watching a loss.
On Tuesday night, his guys proved just how far they'd come.
Tre Demps and Bryant McIntosh scored 13 points apiece, and Northwestern held on through foul trouble and a tense closing stretch for a 67-62 victory over the Tigers.
''I thought the first half was fantastic, the way we executed, the defense. Then we just had to hold on for dear life,'' Collins said. ''This is a game in the last couple of years we would have lost. There's no question in my mind.''
The Wildcats (4-1), who lost to ninth-ranked North Carolina in the semifinals, did not make a field goal for the final 5 minutes, 41 seconds as the Tigers made one final run.
Kevin Puryear's basket with 1:43 left got Missouri (2-3) within 65-59, and Scottie Lindsey's miss at the other end and two free throws by Wes Clark made things interesting. But after a Demps turnover, Puryear could only make the second of two free throws with 33.8 seconds left.
Demps made one of two at the other end to give Northwestern a 66-62 advantage, and Clark's 3-point try rattled out moments later, allowing the Wildcats to escape with the win.
''We knew we had to bring our own energy. We knew there weren't going to be many fans in the stands,'' said the Wildcats' Sanjay Lumpkin. ''I mean, they made a lot of shots. They made their run and we were just fortunate to make big plays at the end of the game.''
Terrance Phillips had 16 points to lead Missouri. Puryear finished with 14.
''We got off to a bad start, put ourselves in a hole,'' Tigers coach Kim Anderson said. ''But I was really encouraged by the way we fought back in the second half.''
The Wildcats threatened to turn the game into a rout in the first half, knocking down just about every shot they took from the perimeter. By the time Lumpkin rattled in his 3-pointer with 7:45 remaining in the half, Northwestern had built a 31-11 advantage.
The Tigers' eventual comeback came in bits and pieces.
Puryear got things started with back-to-back baskets, and Ryan Rosburg contributed a couple of nice plays in the paint. Slowly, the Wildcats' lead began to erode, and four straight foul shots by Namon Wright to end the first half got Missouri within 38-24.
''I think once we got going,'' Phillips said, ''a fire got lit under us.''
The Tigers kept coming out of the break, too. Phillips started to score in transition, the rest of the Tigers began getting to the basket for easy looks, and the lead was finally cut to 61-57 with 3:51 to go - the closest the game had been since the opening minutes.
But while the Wildcats went cold from the field, they managed to create enough offense to get to the free-throw line, where they were able to eventually put the game away.
''I was really proud of having the composure, having the poise on both ends to do what it takes to win,'' Collins said. ''It's not going to be pretty every time. You'd love for it to all come together and go right. We had a great first half. The second half we had to fight.''
Missouri: Clark finished 1 of 11 from the field. He was 2 of 9 in the semifinals. ... The Tigers only committed nine turnovers, but they shot just 5 of 18 from beyond the arc.
Northwestern: Demps scored 21 points against the Tar Heels. ... McIntosh fouled out with about 4 minutes left in the game. ... The Wildcats were 10 of 23 from beyond the arc.
Anderson blamed the slow start for the Tigers' 66-42 loss to Kansas State in the semifinals on Monday night. ''I thought we went into this game with absolutely no confidence,'' he said. ''I was proud of these guys for staying with it.''
Missouri starts a three-game homestand against Arkansas State on Dec. 1.
Northwestern returns home to face New Orleans on Saturday.