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Northwestern-Georgia Tech final score: Wildcats dominate first half, hang on to win 67-61

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The second half was a grind, but it was a deserved win for Northwestern.

@NUMensBball on Twitter

EVANSTON, Ill. — Another game, another power conference win for Northwestern.

Behind stifling defense and strong first half shooting from the outside, the Wildcats (6-1) hung on to beat Georgia Tech (4-2) 67-61 in the ACC/Big Ten challenge.

Down 20 at halftime and by as much as 28 in the second half, Georgia Tech wouldn’t go away, cutting the Northwestern lead to as little as five in the second half. The first-half lead proved too big, however, and Northwestern got the job done at home.

Northwestern’s defense wasn’t anything flashy — it forced 14 turnovers and blocked just four shots — but it was rock-solid throughout. The Wildcats held the Yellow Jackets to just 38 percent shooting from the field and just 4-of-12 shooting from three.

Vic Law continued his hot start to the season with 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting, though 10 of those points came in the first half. Ryan Taylor added 20 points of his own, including four threes. If it wasn’t clear already this season, Law and Taylor are the players who make the NU offense go, and both will need to score in volume nightly for NU to keep rolling against top competition.

Northwestern got off to a slow start offensively, but opened up a big lead midway through the first half. There were offensive mistakes for the Chris Collins’s team, notably several sloppy turnovers in the first half, but it didn’t matter when Georgia Tech wasn’t scoring on the other end. Georgia Tech cut the NU lead to 13 as the first half wound down, but a 7-0 Northwestern run to close the first half gave the home team a commanding 40-20 lead.

Right out of halftime, Northwestern kept attacking, eventually building a 28-point lead less than four minutes into the half. After that, though, Northwestern got complacent offensively. Aside from a sequence when Taylor hit threes on back-to-back possessions, the NU offense wasn’t as crisp and consistent in the second 20 minutes as it was in the first. Jose Alvarado caught fire for the Yellow Jackets, scoring 19 of his 24 points in the second half.

Just enough offense from Law, Taylor and Dererk Pardon (12 points) got the Wildcats over the finish line in the second half, which is what ultimately matters.

After losing to Fresno State in the Wooden Legacy, Northwestern has now won three straight games, and the last two were good overall performances. With tough games against Indiana and Michigan coming up in the next two games, it was important for Northwestern to beat Utah and Georgia Tech — and it did.