Friday, March 22, 2024

March Madness At Barclays: East Regional Report

Northwestern players being introduced before tipoff. Photo by Jason Schott. 

The first round of the NCAA Men’s Bssketball Championship tipped off at Barclays Center at noon on Friday with East regional action.

No. 9 Northwestern won a thriller with No. 8 Florida Atlantic, 77-65, in overtime, and No. 1 Connecticut, the defending National Champion, rolled past No. 16 Stetson, 91-52.


Florida Atlantic guard Jalen Gaffney brings the ball past half court early in the game. Photo by Jason Schott.

The first half of this one was a defensive battle, with a score to embody it of 20-19 Florida Atlantic at the half. 

Florida Atlantic got all their points from three scorers, as Johnell Davis had 11 points, Alijah Martin had six, and Vladislav Goldin had three.

The Owls shot 33.3 percent, or 7-21, from the field, including 1-9 (11.1%) from behind the arc. The Wildcards were held to just 21.2 percent shooting, or 7-33, as their nine offensive rebounds gave them 12 more shots, but they didn’t take advantage.

Northwestern’s Luke Hunger missed multiple chances at the rim on one possession late in the first half. Photo by Jason Schott.

The second half started with a bang, as Northwestern opened up a 35-27 lead on a Ryan Langborg jumper at the 14:51 mark. They would basically maintain that edge, as another Langborg jumper made it 54-45 with 6:43 remaining.

Vladislav Goldin followed with a layup at the 6:03 mark, and after Brandon Weatherspoon poured in five points in a row, Goldin made four free throws to tie the game at 56 with 2:44 left. 

Johnell Davis then took one into the lane from the right side for a layup and FAU was back on top, 58-56, a 13-2 run to that point, with 1:04 remaining.

Johnell Davis’ shot that put FSU ahead. Photo by Jason Schott.

After a Northwestern turnover and Goldin missing the first of a one-and-one at the free throw line, Brooks Barnhiser drove down the lane for a basket to tie the game at 58.

Brooks Barnhiser laying one in to tie the game. Photo by Jason Schott.

Davis missed a three-pointer as time expired, so off to overtime it went.

The OT belonged to Northwestern, as they raced out to a 12-1 run capped by a three-pointer from Langborg at the 1:58 mark that made it 70-59 and largely sealed the win.

Ryan Langborg’s three-pointer from the right side. Photo by Jason Schott.

Northwestern was led by Ryan Langborg, who had 27 points on 11-19, including 3-8 from behind the arc, with four rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Boo Buie had 22 points (8-20 FG, 4-10 threes), with four assists and three rebounds. Brooks Barnhiser had 13 points (6-12 FG, 1-2 threes) and 10 rebounds to give him a double-double, plus three assists and two steals.

FAU was led by Vladislav Goldin, who had 19 points on 5-6 shooting and made nine of his 11 free-throw attempts. Johnell Davis had 18 points (6-16 FG, 1-6 threes) with six resounds and two assists, with the one negative being nine turnovers.

COACH’S COMMENTS: Northwestern Head Coach Chris Collins said: “Our team, the toughness level and the heart of this team is like nothing I’ve ever been a part of. I mean, for us to have the first half we did, we shoot 7 for 33 and it was all - we were excited. We’re excited to be here. We’re excited to compete, and we couldn’t throw it in the ocean. Our defense, though, was just so on point in the first half.

“So even though we really struggled offensively, being at halftime at 20-19, I actually felt really good, because I knew we would settle in. I knew we would get to - you know, I’m always - the people who cover me always know I’m a gun slinger, so I’m one of these guys, if we miss ten in a row and you’re a 50 percent shooter, you’re going to take ten in a row at some point just because water is going to find its level. 

“In the second half, we saw the ball go in, and really was proud of how our guys - you know, the flagrant foul occurs, we are up four there, under four. We think we have the ball  but now they got two and ball (referring to Nick Martinelli being called for a flagrant 1 on Goldin with 3:21 left - Goldin’s free throws made it 56-54 NW). The momentum shifted for those couple minutes. They got the lead, 58-56. Fortunately we got a missed one-and-one, and I was just proud of the poise on these guys on the last - I’m not a big call-a-timeout guy and I like to trust these guys to let them - we know what we want to go to late, so why let them set their defense. 

“We came down and showed tremendous poise. They were over-playing Boo. He set a great screen for Brooks. Brooks got to the basket and was able to get a layup and we got a stop. We just got together at the end. We played so many overtime games in our league, guys that follow us know. And we just said when we got to overtime, we are going to find a way because that’s what we’ve done all year. And it’s a real credit to these guys for their heart and toughness and will to just dig down and win the game.”

Florida Atlantic Head Coach Dusty May: “Like to express gratitude for taking so many people on a great ride and we had great moments today. Credit Northwestern. They are statistically better in almost every facet of the game, and we just were not at our best and they made enough plays to win. But credit them. They made them when they needed to.”


Tristen Newton draining a three-pointer from the top of the key to make it 19-4 UConn early. Photo by Jason Schott.

Connecticut wasted no time dominating this one early, as they had an astonishing first half to take a dominant 52-19 lead. The Huskies shot an astonishing 68.8 percent, or 22-32 from the field, and an even 50% (7-14) from behind the arc. Stetson shot just 30.8 percent in the first half, making just eight of their 26 shot attempts.

UConn was led by Donovan Clingan, who had 19 points on 9-for-11 from the field, with eight rebounds and four assists. Cam Spencer had 15 points (5-11 FG, 3-7 threes), with five rebounds and three assists. Their other three starters also were in double figures, with Stephon Castle pouring in 14 points, Tristen Newton chipping in 13 points, and Alex Karaban had 12 points.

UConn Head Coach Dan Hurley said afterwards, “Obviously love the start. It’s exactly how you want to start a game like this where - you’re in March Madness. You know the history of these No. 1s or high seeds and we just took away all hope in that game from them early on with the defense, with the offense, with the relentlessness. So I thought pretty good first performance.”

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