Game Notes: Georgia Tech at Northwestern
Northwestern cruises to win.
by Quinn Peterson
This year’s ACC-Big Ten series pitted Georgia Tech against Northwestern: Two schools that have actually never met before. For the Wildcats, the game was an opportunity to get, possibly, their best non-conference win of the season; for the Yellow Jackets, it was a chance to get some momentum going after what has been an up-and-down start to the season. Only Northwestern would accomplish its goal, however, cruising to a 91-71 victory behind 31-48 shooting from the field.
“It was just a huge team victory for us,” said NU guard Drew Crawford. “We were all pumped for this game because we knew Georgia Tech was gonna challenge us defensively. But we came up big and we were able to get stops.”
In the game’s opening minutes, the Yellow Jackets jumped out to an early lead. As has been the case all season, it was their guards who led the way, with Glen Rice Jr, Mfon Udofia and Iman Shumpert driving for layups and knocking down jumpers to put GT up 13-5 early on.
“Tonight, we started out, and they really attacked us and went right to the rim on a few plays there,” said Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody. “But then we sort of got our bearings, and, you know, we shot the ball extremely well.”
“A couple things changed the game,” said Georgia Tech head coach Paul Hewitt. “Them going to the 1-3-1, but then obviously them shooting the ball the way they did from three.
Before the defensive switch, Carmody said, they were just too comfortable. Afterward the guard penetration that had been effective in the early-goings for Georgia Tech was nipped almost completely in the bud.
“Yeah, [we game-planned for the 1-3-1],” We did and we fell into the trap that most teams do, we started taking some deep threes from the corner. We talked about trying to attack along the baseline because they’re so small down there.”
Coming out of the first media time out, sharp perimeter shooting and the move to the zone thrust Northwestern into the driver’s seat. John Shurna got his first bucket on a backdoor cut in the Wildcat’s acute Princeton offense, then a three-pointer on the following possession to jumpstart a 15-8 Northwestern run.
Northwestern runs were the theme of the first 20 minutes, where the Wildcats also used runs of 10-4, 9-2 and 12-2 to push themselves to a double-digit lead that was never relinquished. Shooting a torrid 22-29 from the field in the first half, the Wildcats were led by Shurna and Drew Crawford, who chipped in 13 apiece, each going 5-6 from the field.
“They shot well. We know that they’re a good basketball team, a very good shooting team. Some of them they got open, some of them were contested, they just made them,” said Hewitt.
While they didn’t exactly stifle the Yellow Jackets — GT was 16-32, including 5-12 from three themselves — Northwestern was even better, connecting down 10-12 from deep.
“I thought we did a decent job — not a great job — but they capitalized. It’s one thing to be open for three, it’s another thing to knock down 10 out of 12.”
Trailing by as many as 20, five quick points and an assist by Iman Shumpert showed signs of life among the Yellow Jackets, but Northwestern still sat comfortably with a 55-37 lead entering the half.
Despite attempts to press, force turnovers and claw their way back into the game, the Yellow Jackets struggles continued, while the Wildcats coasted. The game itself slowed to a crawl as the two teams combined for 46 free-throw attempts in the half. Going a modest 16-28 from the stripe was good enough for Northwestern to keep their buffer — GT never got it closer than 17.
“In the early part of the game, I felt like they were hitting a lot of open shots,” said Shumpert. “But when we picked it up defensively and they kept making shots in people’s faces, it was just frustrating. Chipping away at the lead, starting to score more, putting more pressure [on], you got a hand in the guy’s face and he still knocks it down. They were knocking down tough shots, so, you know, you gotta tip your hat off to them.”
Shurna and Crawford led the Wildcats with 21 and 19 points, respectively. Four other Wildcats scored in double figures as well, including PG Michael “Juice” Thompson, the Wildcats’ ever-steady spark plug. The senior added 14 points to go along with 4 assists, giving him 403 for his career and making him the second person in NU history with surpass 400 assists.
Glen Rice Jr, led the Yellow Jackets with 16 points. Shumpert added 11. Brian Oliver, who had 32 Friday against Syracuse, was held to 3 points.