Rapid Recap: Gonzaga 79, Northwestern 73
March 18, 2017
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SALT LAKE CITY — It was fun while it lasted.
After edging by Vanderbilt on Thursday 68-66 in its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, Northwestern (24-12) could not pull an upset in the second round, falling to No. 1 seed Gonzaga (34-1) 79-73. The Wildcats, who fell behind early and played catch-up for the remainder of the game, fell short in the closing minutes after a dramatic push.
NU played the Bulldogs tight for the first few minutes of Saturday’s game, and a basket from junior guard Bryant McIntosh tied it at 6 right before the under-16 timeout. After that, however, it was all downhill.
Gonzaga proceeded to go on an extended 22-4 run over the next 11-plus minutes, putting to rest any chance the Cats might have had at a comeback. NU was clearly outmatched offensively — the Cats committed 8 turnovers and shot 30 percent before halftime — and slumped to a 38-20 halftime deficit.
Despite being faced with a Sisyphean task, NU showed life in the second half. A 3 by senior Nathan Taphorn sliced the lead to single digits with 8:43 on the clock, and a massive putback dunk by sophomore forward Vic Law electrified a pro-NU crowd at Vivint Smart Home Arena and put the Cats within 5 with 5:31 to play. Suddenly, a comeback for the ages was in play.
But the Cats’ momentum was stymied after coach Chris Collins was called for a technical foul with 4:54 to play. A possible goaltend by Gonzaga that would have brought NU within 3 went uncalled, and even though TV replays showed Collins’ gripe may have been legitimate, the Cats did not reach any closer after the foul.
NU continued to play with energy as the game wound down, but the Bulldogs drained most of their free throws at the end to seal the win.
1. Northwestern nearly makes March magic
It wouldn’t have been the first big upset of the day, with No. 8 seed Wisconsin topping defending-champion Villanova just before tipoff, but given the size of the halftime deficit, a win by the Cats over one of the country’s best teams would have been the most stunning. NU outscored Gonzaga by 12 in the second half with a markedly different level of intensity and made the West’s No. 1 seed sweat out a victory in the final minutes. The moment wasn’t too big for the Cats, and though they didn’t pull out the victory, the fans who traveled to see the team’s tournament debut had little to be disappointed about by the end.
2. Northwestern struggles early from deep
Part of the Cats’ poor offensive performance stemmed from ice-cold shooting beyond the arc. In the first half alone, NU went just 1-of-11 on three-pointers, with their only such bucket coming from Law with a minute before halftime. Law’s shooting was an outlier though — the sophomore went 4-of-6 from 3. Though the Cats heated up a bit after the break as they made the game competitive, NU finished just 8-of-24 from beyond the arc.
3. The best season in program history comes to an end
Though the Cats were edged on Saturday, a lot of positive signs came out of the 2016-17 season. NU won its most games ever (24), made its first ever NCAA Tournament and will return four of its starters next year.
– Nigel Williams-Goss: 20 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists in 36 minutes
– Scottie Lindsey: 1-of-7 from three; Made his only 3-pointer with 21 seconds left
– Vic Law: 18 points, 8 rebounds, 4-of-6 from 3