Courtesy of Robert Cole. ®
By David Cordova
The non-conference season in college basketball has just begun this month and the competition is now in full swing. One of the most prominent events at the start of the season is the Legends Classic, which has been in inception since 2007. For the last nine years, there have been plenty of great action in this event. Past winners in this event include teams like Texas, Syracuse, Pittsburgh (twice), Florida, Marquette and defending national champions, Villanova.
In last year’s event, Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers and Henry Ellenson of the Detroit Pistons, both put on a duel in front of 51 NBA scouts in front of the Barclays Center crowd as freshmen. But Ellenson ended up emerging victorious as Marquette knocked off LSU, in a close game, 81-80.
This year’s event brought out programs such as Notre Dame, Northwestern, Texas and Colorado. In the semifinal rounds, Northwestern, a program that has never been to the NCAA Tournament in its school history, pulled off a huge upset of Texas, who is ranked No. 22 in the country, by a score of 77-58. Notre Dame then held off Colorado, 89-83, which would mean that Texas and Colorado would square off in the consolation game and Notre Dame would play Northwestern in the championship game. In Day 2, which teams would end up with the victory?
Colorado 68, Texas 54
At the start of the consolation game, Colorado came out as the aggressor behind senior guard Josh Fortune, as they dominated in the paint and hustled on both ends of the court. So much so, that the Buffaloes held a 20-12 lead with 9:53 to go in the first half.
Although Texas had their own force in the paint in freshman forward Jarrett Allen, who had seven points early on, they struggled to make shots from long range, in which Colorado capitalized on the mistakes of the opposition. The first half play of the Buffaloes was so outstanding that they continued to hold the lead at intermission, 33-24.
As the second half started, the Longhorns toughened up and fed Allen in the post in order to keep the game close. But then the Buffaloes ran out to a ten-point lead, 43-33, with 15:23 left in the second half.
Later down the stretch, Texas continued to nip at the lead behind the scoring of sophomore guard Kerwin Roach Jr. and the post presence of senior forward Shaquille Cleare as the Longhorns cut the deficit to 54-49 with 5:12 left in the game.
But the Buffaloes would not relinquish the lead and held on for the victory in the consolation game. Senior guard Derrick White led Colorado with 16 points and five rebounds and junior guard George King had a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds and Fortune added 11 points. For Texas, Roach led with 16 points on 6-for-16 shooting and Allen had 15 points and six rebounds in the loss.
Notre Dame 70, Northwestern 66
In the beginning of the game, Notre Dame was moving the ball around efficiently and trying to get baskets. But Northwestern was able to match their play with the hot shooting of junior guard Scottie Lindsey as he was able to keep the Wildcats close.
But the Fighting Irish took over the lead at 20-14 with 11:04 left in the first half after three-pointers by sophomore forward Matt Ryan and senior guard Steve Vasturia. But the Wildcats wouldn’t stay long as Lindsey and sophomore Vic Law would continue to nip at the Notre Dame lead. Their hard play brought them to within 35-31 with 1:37 left in the opening half. The half ended with Notre Dame on top, 40-34.
As the second half opened, the Fighting Irish continued their offensive attack behind Vasturia and junior guard Matt Farrell, as they raised their lead to 50-43, with 15:08 to go. But the Wildcats would not go down without a fight, as they eventualy cut down the lead to four, 55-51, with 12:33 to go, after a three by senior forward Nathan Taphorn.
Throughout the later stages of the game, both teams got competitive and worked hard to match basket for basket. But Northwestern’s tough play paid off when they tied the game at 58-58 and then with two consecutive three-pointers by Taphorn and junior guard Bryant McIntosh, brought the Wildcats to a 64-58 lead with 6:08 left in the game.
Notre Dame would not go down so quickly, using two baskets to cut the lead of their opposition to 64-62. They then took back the lead with 3:13 left after an alley-oop dunk by V.J. Beachem to bring the lead up one, 65-64. Then McIntosh helped the Wildcats get the lead back with 39.1 seconds left, at 66-65.
But then Farrell completed a three-point play witn 14.7 seconds left to give the Fighting Irish up two, 68-66. Northeastern tried once more to get a shot off, but Farrell hit two free throws to put the game out of reach and Notre Dame emerged victorious in Brooklyn and finished off as the winners of the 2016 Legends Classic.
Farrell and Vasturia led Notre Dame with 18 points and junior forward Bonzie Colson added 13 points and 11 rebounds. For Northwestern, Lindsey led all scorers with 18 points, Law added 14 points and seven rebounds and Taphorn added 12 points and five rebounds in the loss.