Men’s Basketball: Bryant McIntosh shines in Northwestern’s NCAA Tournament debut
March 16, 2017
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SALT LAKE CITY — Bryant McIntosh has had his share of masterful performances in his 99-game career at Northwestern. But none quite compare to the show he put on in the Wildcats’ first-ever NCAA Tournament game Thursday.
From tip until finish, when he pushed NU ahead by a point with two clutch free throws, McIntosh was an offensive force. The junior guard nailed bombs from 3 and repeatedly showcased his signature running jumper as he led the Cats (24-11) to a 68-66 win over Vanderbilt (19-16) in the tournament’s round of 64.
“Bryant was the best player on the floor the whole game,” coach Chris Collins said. “He ran our team, he scored himself, he got other guys shots.”
McIntosh finished with 25 points, matching the season-high he set in a February win over then-No. 7 Wisconsin and later tied in a narrow loss to then-No. 16 Purdue in NU’s regular season finale. The veteran point guard came through time and time again in this season’s pressure-filled pursuit of a historic NCAA Tournament appearance.
Finally under the bright lights of college basketball’s biggest event, McIntosh didn’t slow down.
He scored the Cats’ first-ever points in The Dance with a layup just under a minute in, and nailed a trio of 3-pointers in the opening half. By halftime, McIntosh had 13 points on an efficient 5-for-6 shooting, and he continued to score as the game progressed, often going to his mid-range game.
“He shot the 3 really well,” Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew said. “When he started to make 3’s, you just saw his confidence building, and then he took that to the 2-pointers in the second half.”
McIntosh saved his biggest points for the game’s final moments. When Vanderbilt took its first lead of the game with 1:36 to play, McIntosh pushed NU back ahead. He drove left into the lane, spun to his right and nailed the final of his many second-half floaters.
A minute later, when Commodores guard Matthew Fisher-Davis inexplicably fouled McIntosh after Vanderbilt took a momentary lead, McIntosh nailed the game-tying and go-ahead free throws with 14 ticks left on the clock.
He said the big shots at the charity stripe did not exactly match vision he had as he dreamed of March Madness in past years, practicing at the gym.
“You don’t really imagine being down one and getting fouled very often,” said McIntosh, who entered Thursday shooting 86 percent on free throws. “You envision yourself hitting the game-winner. But to be able to do that at the free throw line was very relaxing.”
Relaxing or not, McIntosh delivered in the the biggest game he and his teammates have ever played. Collins stressed his trust in the guard with the game on the line.
“I’ve trusted him since I put the ball in his hands from day one his freshman year,” Collins said. “Kid’s a winner.”