Rushed Reactions: #8 Northwestern 68, #9 Vanderbilt 66Posted by RJ Abeytia on March 16th, 2017
Northwestern rode in to Salt Lake City on a wave of euphoria following its first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history. They rode out victorious thanks in large part to their defense and a stunning brain freeze at the worst possible moment by Vanderbilt’s Matthew Fisher-Davis, a player who had spent the previous hour brilliantly willing his team back into the game. Fisher-Davis’ backcourt foul to sink his team will live in Nashville infamy for a very long time.
Three Key Takeaways.
- Guard Play wins in March. Northwestern’s Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsey were brilliant in accounting for 39 of the Wildcats’ 68 points on 53 percent shooting from the field. The two also combined for only four turnovers in 70 minutes of floor time.
- Defense is the call. Northwestern held Vanderbilt to only 18 points on three-point shots, forcing the Commodores to find their scoring opportunities elsewhere. The Wildcats also held Vanderbilt to only 5-of-16 shooting from beyond the arc in the second half. Vanderbilt put up an offensive efficiency for the game of 98.5 after averaging 112.3 on the season.
- Luke Kornet can play in the NBA. The 7’1” Commodore center plays the game of today for big men — an agile, heady and capable three-point shooter who is not afraid of contact. Don’t underestimate his impact despite just a 4-of-12 shooting performance. Kornet was +5 for the game, and had he played a few more than his 34 minutes of action, Northwestern’s fairy tale may have ended this afternoon.
Star of the Game. Vanderbilt’s Matthew Fisher-Davis had this game all but locked up until he committed that foul. The Commodores’ guard posted 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting, with many of those attempts incredibly difficult. Ultimately, Northwestern’s Bryant McIntosh gets the deserving nod here. He hit the game-winning free throws, poured in 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting and controlled Northwestern’s offense and the game throughout.
- Chris Collins, on the pro-Northwestern crowd: “They willed us through that game. Coming out to that floor when I saw the purple in that arena, it was just awesome.”
- Bryce Drew was classy and poised after the defeat. Of the game overall, he said “It was kind of a tale of what our season was like. We had some adversity but our guys never quit.” “On the ill-fated Matthew Fisher-Davis foul: “One play doesn’t lose a game for you.”
- Bryant McIntosh, on the foul at the end of the game: “I think they may have not known that they were up one; it was just miscommunication and you really feel sorry for the guy.”
- Drew, on having to close the game out without Luke Kornet: “He does a lot for us on both ends of the floor, protects a lot of players on the defense, and if he’d been in the game we probably run some different things down the stretch.”
- Finally, Collins: “When you dream about these games you don’t dream about losing ‘em.”
Sights and Sounds. This was as close to a home game for Northwestern as it gets. Collins couldn’t stop talking about the difference the Wildcat fans made for his team. It mattered today, and it may very well matter on Saturday….
What’s Next. Northwestern’s defense and versatility gives it a better than puncher’s chance against Gonzaga, to say nothing of the crowd support the Wildcats will enjoy from still delirious fans celebrating the first NCAA win in program history and St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow. The biggest issue is going to be whether Northwestern can hang with the Zags’ size. It should make for an amazing match-up of current and former NCAA Tournament darlings.