March Madness: Langborg lights it up in OT as Northwestern beats Florida Atlantic 77-65 in East

Northwestern head coach Chris Collins, left, talks to Ryan Langborg (5) during the first half of a first-round college basketball game against Florida Atlantic in the NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 22, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Northwestern head coach Chris Collins, left, talks to Ryan Langborg (5) during the first half of a first-round college basketball game against Florida Atlantic in the NCAA Tournament, Friday, March 22, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

NEW YORK (AP) — Ryan Langborg was playing for Princeton last year when he caught the eye of Northwestern coach Chris Collins as both teams advanced at the NCAA Tournament site in Sacramento, California.

Now it’s the Wildcats benefiting from Langborg’s clutch shooting in March — and they couldn’t be more confident in their Ivy League transfer.

“I don’t know, something about that kid — you get to the dance and he’s ready to go,” Collins said.

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 in the first round Friday.

“I usually don’t celebrate a lot when I make shots, but I know I had my tongue out and things like that,” said Langborg, who set a Northwestern record for points in an NCAA Tournament game.

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 won a game in each of its three trips to the NCAA Tournament (all since 2017), but has never reached the Sweet 16.

“The toughness level and the heart of this team is like nothing I’ve ever been a part of,” Collins said.

Boo Buie, the leading scorer in school history, 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 year despite playing without injured starters Ty Berry (knee) and 7-footer Matthew Nicholson (leg), who are both finished for the season.

“They played really well in overtime,” FAU coach Dusty May said. “We just looked like we were a little bit out of gas, I guess.”

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 and Davis missed a long, contested 3-pointer just before the buzzer.

May played his high school ball for Barnhizer’s father in Indiana, and the two families are very close.

Langborg 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, leading to Northwestern fans chanting Langborg’s name.

“Man, he was balling today,” Buie said.

A graduate guard from San Diego, Langborg became the second player to score at least 25 points in an NCAA Tournament game for two schools, according to Sportradar. Jamal Faulkner was the other one, doing it for Arizona State in 1991 and Alabama in 1994.

Last season, Langborg averaged 18.7 points in three NCAA Tournament games and led Princeton to the Sweet 16. He scored the go-ahead basket late in a victory over second-seeded Arizona and had 22 points in a second-round win against Missouri.

“We just felt Ryan was a seamless fit,” Collins said. “I don’t know if anybody beat us to the punch, but we were one of the first ones on the horn to call him and got him to campus right away.”

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

“I kind of emptied my Langborg package with the playbook,” Collins said.

Davis finished with 18 points on 6-for-16 shooting, but the Owls were undone by a season-high 21 turnovers and an 18.5% mark on 3-pointers (5 of 27).

“Fun season, but definitely different (than last year),” guard Nick Boyd said. “The cameras, the lights, trying to live up to expectations.”

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, and then two more with 2:44 left to tie it at 56.

Northwestern, which beat Boise State in last year’s NCAA Tournament before losing to second-seeded UCLA, 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.

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. 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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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness

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