BY VINNY SIMONE / @VTSimone
BROOKLYN, N.Y. — For the second time in three games, Northwestern suffered a heartbreaking last-minute loss. A week after falling to Butler on a last-second shot, the Wildcats let a late lead slip away as they fell 70-66 to Notre Dame in the championship round of the Legends Classic at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.
Northwestern trailed by as many as 12 points early in the second half, but mounted a furious rally to knot the game at 58 on a pair of Isiah Brown free throws with 7:33 remaining. Over the next 90 seconds, Nathan Taphorn and Bryant McIntosh buried back-to-back 3-pointers to cap a 10-0 run and give the Wildcats their largest lead of the game at six with 6:16 remaining.
Taphorn set a new personal best with four made 3-pointers. The senior finished 4-5 from downtown, with three of those buckets coming in the second half.
“It was a breaking point, things weren’t going well,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said of the double-digit deficit his team faced. “A lot of teams would have rolled over at that point. They were hitting shots, they were in a rhythm, and we refused to quit. We kept playing, we kept battling. I thought our defense the last 15 minutes of the game was very good.”
Indeed, Northwestern’s defense did stand tall in the second half. After Notre Dame shot 50% from the field over the first 20 minutes, the Irish were held to just 34.5% in the second stanza.
The Wildcats’ comeback had come, but it was capped too soon.
Notre Dame, led by the hustle of junior Matt Farrell and an electric alley-oop from senior V.J. Beachem, finished the game on a 12-2 run to escape with the victory.
With 19 seconds on the clock and Northwestern clinging to a 66-65 lead, Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia came up with the steal on Taphorn’s inbound attempt. Farrell picked it up and drove the lane for the winning basket five seconds later. The New Jersey native added three more free throws in the waning seconds to seal the victory.
The win marks the fifth in six games for the Irish at the Barclays Center. Last March, they took down Michigan and Stephen F. Austin en route to their second straight Sweet 16. The upcoming ACC Tournament will also be held at the Barclays Center
Scottie Lindsey paced the Wildcats with 18 points, but battled foul trouble in the first half and played just 28 minutes on the night. Vic Law added 14.
Farrell and Vasturia led the Irish with 18 apiece while senior Bonzie Colson put together a double-double on 13 points and 11 rebounds. Beachem rounded out the scoresheet with 11.
Northwestern drops to 4-2 on the young season, but the two losses have now come on a combined six points with an extra helping of experience.
“I want our guys to be confident in that we have a good team, we have a good thing going,” Collins added. “This has to hurt, it’s going to hurt, but we’ve got to get home, get healthy, get rested, and keep playing. There’s a lot of basketball to be played. If we keep playing like this, we’re going to have a really successful season.”