Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory
ATLANTA It’d be fair to say the No. 1 priority for the Georgia Tech men’s basketball team coming into Tuesday’s game with Northwestern was stopping the Wildcats’ Princeton-style offense. But in the second half, the Yellow Jackets found out just how tough the visitors from Evanston, Illinois can be on the defensive end. Northwestern got 25 points from John Shurna, held Tech to just 21 second-half points and never trailed in winning 76-60 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge at Philips Arena.
Northwestern (6-0) won by double digits for the second consecutive season against Tech (4-3) in the conferences’ yearly challenge.
“It’s great to get a win and get a win on the road, I like this team, it’s a nice feeling,” said Northwestern coach Bill Carmody.
“Give Northwestern credit, they came out and hit us pretty good,” said Tech coach Brian Gregory. “The one thing that was a constant during the entire game was our inability in a one-on-one situation to defend the basketball. If we get a little better at that it’s going to help us out.”
Three minutes into the second half, Shurna had already hit three field goals, but the Wildcats led just 50-45 after Mfon Ufofia (12 points) hit a a basket at the 17:18 mark. But the visitors’ offense, which relies on backdoor cuts and efficient perimeter shooting, wore down Tech and a 13-5 spurt pushed the lead out to 63-50 with 10:10 left.
"In the second half they started off with a couple threes…give them credit, if you make mistakes they make you pay," Gregory said of Northwestern.
While the Wildcats' defense held Tech to just eight field goals in the second half, Shurna wasn’t alone on the offensive end: Drew Crawford and Luka Mirkovic combined for 27 points on 11-of-20 shooting, while freshman guard Dave Sobolewski tied a career-high with six assists.
“We have to (shoot well) to win, and we haven’t been shooting that great,” Carmody said. “But I think we’ve been playing together pretty well.”
“I think what’s real important for these neutral environment games is the defense, I think in the second half we really clamped down,” said Shurna.
Shurna and the Wildcats came out strong in the opening minutes. The senior guard knocked down a three-pointer, then followed that with a conventional three-point play for an early 6-0 lead.
Crawford got going after that, picking up a steal and lay up and scored five points during a stretch that saw the lead grow to 17-6.
Glen Rice Jr. hit two field goals and made a nice, cross-court pass to assist on Jason Morris’ three-pointer to get Tech within 18-13 with 12:50 to play. Morris, who led the Yellow Jackets with 21 points, had an excellent first 20 minutes, leading all scorers with 16 points. During a 9-0 run, Morris scored seven, helping bring the Yellow Jackets back to within 36-33.
Both teams shot well in the opening half. Tech hit 15-of-27 shots (55 percent), while the Wildcats shot 56 percent (17-of-30). Davide Curletti nailed a three-pointer with 10:20 on the clock to give the Wildcats their largest cushion of the half at 27-14. While Morris was leading the Yellow Jackets, Shurna led the way for the visitors with 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including a bucket on a feed from Crawford to go into the locker room with a 44-39 advantage.