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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern falls for the first time this season as late comeback against Providence comes up short

After a slow start, the ‘Cats couldn’t ever fully get back in it, eventually falling 77-72.

NCAA Basketball: Legends Classic Semifinal-Providence at Northwestern Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

After falling behind big early on, Northwestern (4-1) couldn’t complete a late comeback against Providence (5-0), ultimately losing 77-72 to Ed Cooley’s Friars.

Despite struggling for most of the contest, Boo Buie led the team in scoring, putting up a 23 points followed closely behind by Pete Nance with 20. First-year Julian Roper II also impressed with four rebounds and four assists in his 23 minutes of play. However, it was the inability of the team as a whole to play up to Providence’s level that doomed the ‘Cats.

Northwestern came out of the gates looking a little slow, allowing Providence to jump out to a quick 10-4 lead by the first break in action. An early threat, the Friars’ Jared Bynum scored four of the team’s first five baskets on his own, taking advantage of the ‘Cats on their heels.

There was a slight shift in momentum with Ryan Young’s entrance around the 15-minute mark with some good off-ball movement putting him into position for a layup off a pass from Buie. However, Young’s burst was short-lived, as Providence went on a 6-0 run that extended its lead to 13 before a timeout was called by Chris Collins.

A Pete Nance three out of the huddle put Northwestern back within 10, ending a three-minute scoring drought. Solid defense for the next two kept Providence from putting any more points on the board, and a patient offensive play laid the ball off to Boo Buie at the top of the arc, where he drained a three. The basket propelled the ‘Cats back within single digits, down 19-12 with around eight minutes to go in the half.

Both teams then traded points, with a field-goal and three from Providence balanced out by scores from both Buie and Young. However, Northwestern struggled to defend the Friars beyond the arc, with Brycen Goodine hitting two threes in the span of 40 seconds. The ‘Cats couldn’t respond and fell even further behind, unable to keep up with the Friar offense.

A brief moment of brilliance from Ryan Greer on a threaded pocket pass to Young for the finish was quickly overshadowed by yet another three from Providence, maintaining a double-digit margin. Thankfully, something seemed to click for the ‘Cats after the fact, and they quickly boosted themselves back in range. Two baskets from Young, a layup from Simmons and a three from Buie pulled the ‘Cats within six points after having been down 14 points just two minutes earlier.

A final Goodine three marked the last score for Providence before the halftime buzzer, ending a nine-point unanswered streak from the ‘Cats. Buie led all scorers at the half with 11 points, but the guard was also responsible for all four of the team’s turnovers. Young followed close behind with nine of his own, shooting a respectable 4-for-6 from the field. Though Northwestern went into the locker room down 36-27, the late bounce-back was a bright spot and a potential source of momentum heading into the final period of play.

Both teams traded points to begin the half, with Providence gaining the slight edge. Scores from Buie and Beran were not enough to halt the Friars’ momentum, and the ‘Cats were soon looking at yet another 13-point deficit thanks to a six point burst from Nate Watson topped with two more uncontested scores from beyond the arc.

Watson continued to demolish the Northwestern defense with three more jumpers over the span of two-and-a-half minutes, singlehandedly extending Providence’s lead to 52-37. Collins inevitably called another break to regroup with 13 minutes to go.

It was a slow transition, but Julian Roper II ended a three-minute scoring drought and began a 9-0 Northwestern run that cut an 18-point deficit in half. Another Goodine three threatened the ‘Cats momentum, but Roper II struck once again from inside the paint and kept NU within 10.

From that point on, it was all Nance. Behind a sudden barrage of shooting from the senior and a layup from Buie along with several forced turnovers in the final few minutes, the ‘Cats pulled within five with under 40 seconds to go.

Unfortunately, though the final stretch was competitive, Northwestern was unable to halt the Providence offense led by Watson and Bynum who finished with 16 and 15 points, respectively.

Collins’ team will take on Georgia in the Legend’s Classic third-place game tomorrow, Tuesday, Nov. 23 at 4 p.m. CST.