March Madness: Langborg Lights It Up in OT as Northwestern Beats Florida Atlantic 77-65

Florida Atlantic’s Johnell Davis (1) drives against Northwestern’s Ryan Langborg (5) during the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 22, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo / Frank Franklin II)Florida Atlantic’s Johnell Davis (1) drives against Northwestern’s Ryan Langborg (5) during the first half of a first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 22, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo / Frank Franklin II)

NEW YORK (AP) — Ryan Langborg scored 12 of his career-high 27 points in overtime, and ninth-seeded Northwestern finally put away No. 8 seed Florida Atlantic 77-65 on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

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The injury-depleted Wildcats recovered after squandering a nine-point lead late in the second half. Brooks Barnhizer’s driving layup tied it with nine seconds left.

Next up for Northwestern (22-11) is No. 1 overall seed UConn or 16th-seeded Stetson in the second round of the East Region on Sunday in Brooklyn. The Big Ten program has never reached the Sweet 16 in three trips to the NCAA Tournament.

Boo Buie had 19 of his 22 points after a quiet first half. Barnhizer added 13 points and 10 rebounds for Northwestern, which advanced in the NCAAs for the second consecutive season despite playing without injured starters Ty Berry (knee) and 7-footer Matthew Nicholson (leg), who are both finished for the season.

Vlad Goldin had 19 points and nine rebounds for the Owls (25-9), who returned nearly their entire team from a surprising Final Four run last year but were unable to muster that same March magic this time.

They certainly tried, though.

Down by nine with 6 1/2 minutes left, Florida Atlantic scored eight straight points to grab a 58-56 lead on Johnell Davis’ driving basket with 1:04 remaining — his first points of the second half.

Barnhizer tied it at the other end, and Davis missed a long, contested 3-pointer just before the buzzer.

Langborg, a graduate guard from San Diego, came out firing in OT with two jumpers and a 3 to score Northwestern’s first seven points of the extra period. Buie sank a circus shot and Langborg drained another 3 to give the Wildcats a 70-59 advantage with 1:38 remaining.

Northwestern made all five shots from the field in OT and seven of eight free throws.

Davis finished with 18 points on 6-for-16 shooting.

Florida Atlantic fought back late with the help of a flagrant foul at the 3:21 mark of the second half charged to Wildcats forward Nick Martinelli — following a replay review — for accidentally elbowing Goldin during a scramble near the basket.

Goldin made both free throws, then two more, to tie it at 56-all with 2:44 left.

After both teams were off target in a messy first half, Buie buried a 3-pointer right out of the break and added a long one from the wing as Northwestern used a 7-0 run to build a 35-27 lead early in the second half. Langborg gave the Wildcats a 54-45 advantage on a jumper with 6:43 remaining, but FAU wasn’t finished.

Both teams were making their third NCAA Tournament appearance. FAU made a surprising run to the Final Four last season as a No. 9 seed, also coming out of the East Region in New York City (winning Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games at Madison Square Garden), before losing to San Diego State on Lamont Butler’s buzzer-beater in the national semifinals at Houston.

After moving from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference, the Owls brought back 14 of 15 players under coach Dusty May and were one of only five Division I programs that didn’t have a single player enter the transfer portal. They opened the season ranked No. 10 in the AP Top 25 and beat then-No. 4 Arizona in double overtime in December, but were coming off a hard-to-explain 74-73 loss to 11th-seeded Temple in the AAC semifinals.

Given not only an at-large berth anyway but a No. 8 seed, the Owls got another chance to add to the madness of March.

Northwestern, which beat Boise State in last year’s NCAA Tournament before losing to second-seeded UCLA in the second round, matched a program record with 21 regular-season wins this year but had lost three of four coming into this one.

The first half wasn’t pretty, with the teams combining for 3-of-21 shooting from 3-point range even though Northwestern entered ranked fifth in the nation at 39.4% from long distance and FAU was averaging 82.5 points per game, 16th in the country.

It wasn’t for lack of hustle, though, as Barnhizer went flying over the press table in pursuit of a loose ball along the sideline.

Northwestern went 5 1/2 minutes without scoring and a layup at the buzzer by Davis, the co-AAC player of the year, gave Florida Atlantic a 20-19 edge despite 12 turnovers. Davis had 11 points at the break, one of only three Owls to score in the first half. FAU shot 33% from the field to 21% for Northwestern.


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