If Charles Dickens had witnessed the first half at Welsh-Ryan Arena, he would have had an easy time describing it.
The best of times? Northwestern scored 17 straight points in a four-minute span.
Cardinal had an 18-4 rebounding advantage. And one of the nation's worst shooting long-range teams began the night drilling 6 of 7.
After the final word was written, Stanford (8-4) emerged with a hard-fought and entertaining 70-68 victory.
And yes, a Northwestern season that began with (relatively) great expectations took another wrong turn.
With one game remaining before the start of Big Ten play, the Wildcats (8-4) lost for the fourth time at home.
Northwestern tied the game 67-67 on a Tre Demps 3-pointer with 1 minute, 50 seconds to play. But the Wildcats left Aaron Bright alone on Stanford's next possession, and he nailed a 3.
Down 70-68, Demps missed a runner in the lane. Jared Swopshire could not corral the rebound, and it went out of bounds with 2.8 seconds to play.
"I just tried to get in the lane and penetrate," Demps said. "But the shot just didn't fall."
After Stanford successfully inbounded the ball, the game was effectively over.
The Cardinal finished with 11 3-pointers in 24 tries (45.8 percent), impressive for a team that entered shooting 26.2 percent from deep — better than just 14 of 347 Division I teams.
Northwestern got major contributions from Reggie Hearn (18 points, seven rebounds) and Alex Olah (career-high 16 points).
But Hearn left the game with 17:17 to play after driving and going down hard on a collision with Chasson Randle. Hearn got up, stayed in the game and limped around. Before being removed and taken to the locker room, he managed to put back a Dave Sobolewski miss.
NU's training staff told coach Bill Carmody he could not return but did not specify the injury.
"I thought it was an ankle," Carmody said. "But I heard it might be a knee."
Northwestern already has lost JerShon Cobb to an academic-related suspension and Drew Crawford to season-ending shoulder surgery. (Thursday's procedure went smoothly.)
And now this.
"We'll be praying for him," Alex Marcotullio said.
Northwestern seemingly was buried 14 minutes into the game, down 32-14. Then Marcotullio swished a 3-pointer to begin a 17-0 run — aided by NU's 1-3-1 zone.
"We needed to step up and play harder," Marcotullio said. "Get the loose balls."
Marcotullio played 29 minutes, a good sign considering his early-season back troubles. He scored 10 points and had three assists with three steals.
Sobolewski had a rough game. He entered averaging 12.0 points per game but managed only one point Friday after missing all six attempts from the field.
NU rally falls just short
Stanford's uncharacteristic 3-point mastery too much for Wildcats in 70-68 setback