It wasn’t pretty, but Northwestern made just enough plays to escape with an overtime win over Virginia Tech on the road Tuesday.
When the game was tied at 79, sophomore guard Bryant McIntosh drove left and hit the game-winning layup with 27 seconds left, giving the Wildcats (6-1) a 81-79 win.
NU had the lead for most of the night and was up 7 points at halftime, but the Hokies (4-3) tightened up the contest in the second half. Senior guard Tre Demps had the opportunity to break a 73-73 tie at the end of regulation. However, his last-second floater hit the back iron and the game went to overtime.
In overtime, the Cats quickly fell behind by 4 before two big threes by junior forward Sanjay Lumpkin and McIntosh gave NU a lead. Virginia Tech guard Justin Bibbs tied the game with a layup before McIntosh put the Cats ahead for good.
Lumpkin embodied the fighting spirit of the Cats on Tuesday, hitting important shots and most importantly, he held Virginia Tech’s leading scorer on the season, Zach LeDay, to just 2 points. Another pivotal play by Lumpkin came at the end of the game, when he knocked the ball away from Virginia Tech guard Seth Allen on the Hokies’ last possession.
“I thought Sanjay was a star, he made so many hustle plays throughout the game, he hit a huge three,” coach Chris Collins said. “The last couple possessions he was the guy on Allen.”
Allen put up big numbers for the second straight game, leading Virginia Tech with 25 points three days after he scored 23 points in the Hokies’ last tilt against UAB. Allen shot four-of-eight from 3-point range and had success on his drives to the basket, including a couple of nifty behind-the-back dribbles he employed to get by NU defenders.
McIntosh, NU’s leading scorer, provided crucial down the stretch with 13 of his 19 points coming in the second half and overtime.
Demps dominated the game early again, scoring the first 9 points of the night for the Cats three days after he scored 10 points in the first four minutes against New Orleans. He ended the night with 17 points.
Junior forward Nathan Taphorn also played a big role Tuesday, scoring 11 points and playing 21 minutes including many important minutes at the end of the game.
Virginia Tech provided a stiff challenge for the Cats with their shooting and offensive rebounding abilities. The Hokies pulled down 14 offensive rebounds, half of which were by nabbed by high-energy forward Chris Clarke.
The game also served as a homecoming for graduate transfer Joey van Zegeren, who played for Virginia Tech last year before he transferred to NU for his final year of eligibility. Van Zegeren was in foul trouble all night and played only 14 quiet minutes, during which he scored 4 points.
This was a pivotal early-season game for the Wildcats because it was their first true road game and their last game against a power-five school until the start of Big Ten play Dec. 30.
The game is part of the annual Big Ten-ACC challenge, a three day event in which teams from each conference play each other.
“Quite frankly, the last two years in the Big Ten-ACC challenge we stunk, and we wanted to come out here and have a great showing,” Collins said.
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