For the second time in as many games, Georgia Tech started slowly. Wednesday, though, the Yellow Jackets were playing a team from the Big Ten, not the Southwestern Athletic Conference, and were on the road to boot. Their comeback attempt was commendable but not fruitful, as they fell 67-61 to the Wildcats in Evanston, Ill.
Tech (4-2) trailed nearly the entire game and was down 40-20 at halftime before Northwestern’s lead grew to 50-22 at the 16:12 mark of the second half, what proved to be its largest margin of the game. After a 30-second timeout, Tech went on a 25-7 run over the next 8 ½ minutes to cut the lead to 57-47, led by guard Jose Alvarado, who scored 11 of his game-high 24 points in that span. Alvarado’s 24 points were a career high.
Tech could not close the gap from there until it was too late. The Jackets got to within 62-55 and had the ball with 1:18 remaining, but guard Brandon Alston missed a layup and Northwestern’s Vic Law answered with a basket to return the lead to nine with 45 seconds remaining.
In Tech’s most recent game, the Jackets trailed Prairie View A&M by 10 at the four-minute mark of the first half and by nine at the 16:49 mark of the second half before taking over and winning by 11 against a physically overmatched team that was at the end of a lengthy road trip.
Tech had no such advantages Wednesday against Northwestern in this ACC-Big Ten Challenge matchup.
For the Jackets, center James Banks had his best offensive game of his young Tech career, scoring 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting to go with 12 rebounds and three blocks before fouling out in 27 minutes. No one else scored in double figures for the Jackets. The Jackets attempted only 12 3-pointers (making four), a season low for a team that came into the game averaging 20.8 3-point attempts in an attempt to win through scoring beyond the arc.
The Jackets had seen this game as a test of their mettle, after starting the season 4-1 with wins over lower-tier Division I opponents, and in particular their defensive strength. Northwestern (5-2) finished the game shooting 42.6 percent from the field (23-for-54) and 35 percent from 3-point range (7-for-20). Tech’s goals are to hold opponents under 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range.
Tech is scheduled to travel directly to Miami on Thursday to play St. John’s in a neutral-site game on Saturday.