Texas didn’t look like a team ready for prime time and Northwestern made them pay.
It was a battle of youth against experience and the seasoned Northwestern team prevailed in impressive fashion.
Bryant McIntosh had 20 points and five assists to lead the Wildcats to a 77-58 win over No. 22 ranked Texas Monday night in the nightcap semi final round of the Legends Classic at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Earlier in the night Notre Dame knocked off Colorado to advance to the championship game where they’ll meet Northwestern.
The Wildcats came out and took the fight right to Texas with an 11-0 run to start the game. Texas head coach Shaka Smart found a way to settle down his players after a time out and the Longhorns eventually took a 23-20 lead on Tevin Mack’s three-pointer.
Northwestern answered back with a 9-0 run to close out the first half and followed that up with a 10-1 run to help put Texas on their heels after halftime.
The Longhorns never recovered as Northwestern proved to be the team more poised and mature down the stretch. It was an early gut check win for the Wildcats, they were coming off a tough last-second loss to Butler and showed no signs of a hangover against Texas.
“I’m really proud of my guys tonight. W had a very tough loss Wednesday night in Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said afterwards. “Teams can go two separate ways after a loss like that. You can go on a little bit of a tailspin or you can rally together and come out fighting. There was never a doubt in my mind that our guys were going to keep fighting. We came in confident, yet very respectful of Texas. We knew it was going to take a great effort to beat a team like that. I thought a lot of guys played well.”
The growing pains, which come with a young team, were evident of Smart’s unit in this game.
Coming into the game, six Longhorns were averaging double figures in points. Mack, a sophomore, was the team’s leading scorer, and only one to reach double figures, with 18 points.
Freshman Jarrett Allen finished with only five points on two of six shooting from the field for Texas.
“I thought Northwestern did a great job starting out the game with aggressiveness and got off to the big lead. Our guys responded really well. Battled back, took the lead, but obviously from there Northwestern was just a much better team tonight.
“For us, it’s an experience we need to grow from and learn from and there’s a lot of things when we look at the tape that we’re going to see and we can fix and do better, just some slight adjustments.”
It was a long night all-around for Texas, even on defense, which has become Smart’s calling card as a coach. The Longhorns limited their first three opponents to 21.8 percent shooting from three-point range, Northwestern lit them up for a 41.7 percent on 10 of 24 from downtown.
When it came down to making the right play at the right moment, Northwestern’s experience over the youth of Texas was the game’s x-factor.
“For all of our freshmen this is their first experience away from home,” Smart said. “This is their first time dealing with a high major, if you will, opponent and I think there’s a lot of learning experiences for all four of them.”
Smart will now look to see how quick his players can put this loss behind them. Texas will play Colorado in the consolation game, less than 24 hours later.