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Northwestern basketball falls 52-51 to Georgia Tech on a buzzer-beater

It’s bad.

NCAA Basketball: Big 10 Media Day Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t enough. Despite thoroughly outplaying Georgia Tech in the final eight minutes of the game, Tadric Jackson’s buzzer-beating layup gave Georgia Tech (4-1) a stunning 52-51 win in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. It’s a crushing loss for Northwestern (4-3), who came to the McCamish Pavilion desperately needing a résumé-building win. Instead, the Wildcats leave with nothing.

Northwestern looked down and out with a 10-point deficit after 30 minutes, but the Wildcats battled back with a 12-0 run in the second half to take the lead. For the umpteenth time, Bryant McIntosh put the team on his back. With the offense sputtering and Scottie Lindsey out of sorts, McIntosh scored 18 points and dished out 5 assists.

Northwestern looked like it survived when Derek Pardon picked up a weak-side rebound off a missed Falzon three and put Northwestern up 51-50. But Georgia Tech had the last say. Northwestern’s interior defense collapsed and Jackson got an open shot at a layup. He converted as time expired, sending the crowd into pandemonium.

The entire game went at a snail’s pace on offense. After five minutes, the score was 4-2 in favor of Georgia Tech and the Wildcats were 0-for-5 from the field. After 8 minutes, Northwestern had a grand total of 2 points. Thankfully, Georgia Tech only had 7.

Northwestern battled back with some excellent offensive production from Bryant McIntosh. What else is new? McIntosh hit a three to make it 9-5 and hit a trademark floater to give Northwestern its first lead of the game around the 11-minute mark. But Georgia Tech fought back with a 6-0 run of its own and took a 15-10 lead with 8:09 to go.

Both teams struggled to find rhythm offensively in the first half. Other than a quick run of scoring after the under-8, neither team could find many points. McIntosh tied the game at 22-all with a floater but the Yellow Jackets hit two threes to close out the half and took a 28-22 into halftime. Northwestern had finally showed some improvement defensively, but now the offense was misfiring. Northwestern shot 27 percent from the field and 2-of-14 from three.

The second half continued the trends of the first. Georgia Tech continued to grind out points while Northwestern was offensively inept other than McIntosh. He carried Northwestern through another lean period, but Georgia Tech hammered away for a 42-31 lead after a Jackson bucket.

Northwestern proceeded to wander its way to a 6-0 run, highlighted by an emphatic Vic Law dunk to cut it to five. But Georgia Tech responded with an Alvarado two and a Jackson three put the lead back to 47-37. Scottie Lindsey, hobbled with an ankle injury and with zero made shots, headed to the bench in favor of Jordan Ash.

Suddenly, things turned around. Jordan Ash was left uncovered on an inbounds pass with the clock winding down and hit a wide-open three to make it 47-41. Georgia Tech, now fully ejecting, turned the ball over and a Pardon dunk cut it to 47-43. Another turnover led to a McIntosh bucket and suddenly it was a two-point game with under 5 remaining.

Josh Pastner took a panicked timeout, but it didn’t matter. McIntosh completed a 10-point Northwestern run and tied it at 47-47. Vic Law forced another turnover and another McIntosh score gave Northwestern the lead. Georgia Tech drew a cheap foul and hit both free throws, but another Law steal gave Northwestern the ball with 30 seconds left.

Pardon’s ensuing layup off the Falzon brick looked to be just enough, but Northwestern could not seal the deal. The Wildcats are now in big trouble with Big Ten play fast approaching and no solid wins under their belts. Chris Collins and his seniors need to turn the ship around quickly.