NEWARK, New Jersey — Northwestern (5-1) bounced back from its first loss of the season Tuesday evening, beating Georgia (2-4) 78-62 in the Third Place Game of the Legends Classic.
In an affair that featured stretches of uninspiring play from both sides, the Wildcats lived and died by the three-ball. They hit nearly 50 percent of their attempts (8-of-17) in the first half but made just one from deep after the break and had to ward off a UGA comeback attempt.
In a balanced offensive attack, Boo Buie led the way for the ‘Cats with 22 points and six assists on 8-of-21 shooting. He finished the two-game tournament with 45 points. Ryan Young followed close behind off of the bench by adding 17 points in 27 minutes of action. Pete Nance and Ty Berry also scored in double figures, with 14 and 10 points, respectively.
For Georgia, Braelen Bridges and Kario Oquendo both had 12 points a piece on 5-of-9 and 5-of-7 shooting, respectively.
Both teams started slow offensively, with Berry hitting a jumper to break the ice two minutes and 17 seconds in. The two squads combined to shoot 5-of-23 from the field in the opening 7:30 of play, but the scoring opened up for the Wildcats shortly thereafter.
A Buie triple gave NU an 11-10 lead and keyed a 9-0 run over two and a half minutes from which Chris Collins’ squad didn’t look back. After Tom Crean’s Bulldogs found some good looks agains the Wildcats’ zone early, they went cold from the field as NU’s perimeter defense also clamped down. UGA made just one of 12 attempts from deep in the opening half and connected on just 21 percent of its tries on the evening.
The Wildcats connected on six three-pointers in the final 12:31 of the first half to rip off an extended 35-13 run to close while the Bulldogs couldn’t buy a bucket. Aaron Cook and Braelen Bridges started 1-of-4 and 1-of-3 from the field, respectively. With 5:35 left in the half, UGA had five made shots to six turnovers committed. Overall, the Bulldogs turned it over 10 times to NU’s three before the break. At the under-8 media timeout, the Wildcats led 27-18, slowly trading baskets with Georgia.
Then as the half came to a close, Northwestern, led got a boost from Young. He scored eight of his 11 first-half points after the u-8 to help extended his team’s lead to 17. While an offensive foul by Buie with three seconds remaining made it look like the ‘Cats would head to the locker room up 17, a Ryan Greer steal and subsequent half-court heave miraculously put NU up 43-23 at the end of the first half.
Nance came out of the break sharp, driving to the basket for a left-handed dunk before making a contested layup to stretch the Wildcats’ lead to 24. But Georgia began the second stanza better on offense hitting two threes before the under-16 media timeout. It used sloppy play from NU to cut into the ‘Cats’ lead with a 12-2 run, highlighted by a monster slam by Kario Oquendo. Northwestern went scoreless for 2:10, but a Ju Roper layup sandwiched by two baskets from Ryan Young returned the lead to 60-42 with 11:56 left.
The Dawgs didn’t go quietly. In a span of just over a minute, they went on a 7-0 run to cut the Northwestern lead to 62-52, the smallest it had been since 5:13 in the first half, forcing Collins to call timeout. On one end, aggressive Georgia offense forced NU into fouling, as Robbie Beran picked up his fourth personal with 8:47 to go. Offensively, Northwestern kept chucking up threes and drove into contact but to no avail. The lead remained 10 points with eight minutes left.
That’s as close as it would get, though. Buie finally broke a scoring drought of 3:31 with a short floater, and then it was UGA’s turn to go scoreless for nearly five minutes. The ‘Cats couldn’t fully put the Dawgs away until NU went on a small 6-0 run with just under two minutes remaining.
The Wildcats are back in action next Monday, November 30, when they hit the road to take in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.