SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP)Boo Buie scored 22 points to lead Northwestern to a win in the school’s second appearance ever in the NCAA Tournament, 75-67 over Boise State on Thursday.
The seventh-seeded Wildcats (22-11) previously made it to the Big Dance in 2017, and just like that time, they made sure they wouldn’t be one-and-done.
“All joy. No relief. It’s really hard to get here, especially when you play in the Big Ten,” coach Chris Collins said. “When you get to this point now, it’s so rewarding and so joyful as a coach to see these guys celebrating and to be on the big stage like that playing well, finding a way to win and advance in the NCAA Tournament.”
Northwestern never trailed in a game that was close most of the way and advanced to play second-seeded UCLA in the second round of the West Region.
The 10th-seeded Broncos (24-10) are still searching for their first tournament win, losing their opener for the ninth time in as many tries. Max Rice scored 17 points to lead Boise State and Naje Smith added 14.
“I don’t think anyone expected us to be here,” Rice said. “I still think it was an amazing season. Obviously we wanted to get our first win in the tournament. But they played good tonight. They played better than us tonight and made a bunch of big shots. But that doesn’t take away from what we’ve done this year.”
Chase Audige added 20 points for the Wildcats and Ty Berry scored 13, including three 3-pointers.
The Bulldogs fell behind by 10 points early but fought back to tie the game at 40 early in the second half when Rice hit his second 3-pointer of the half.
The game was tight most of the way before Northwestern finally built the lead back to 10 on a tip-in by Brooks Barnhizer with 3:15 to go.
“We didn’t break down,” Audige said. “We weren’t screaming. We might have screamed at each other, but it was a good type of like, ‘C’mon, let’s be better.’ I think every single time we just executed, whether we missed a shot or made it, we got a shot we wanted or liked.”
TOUGH IT OUT
Broncos guard Marcus Shaver Jr. had to be helped off the court after going down with an apparent leg injury late in the first half. He came out of locker room late after halftime and returned to the game.
“He’s courageous, he’s tough, and he didn’t want to let these guys down, us down,” coach Leon Rice said. “It’s just unfortunate.”
Boise State: With four returning starters from last year’s tournament team, including three seniors, the Broncos hoped this year’s team could be the one finally to break through. They fell to 0-4 in the tournament under Rice.
Northwestern: After finishing second in the Big Ten for the first time since the 1958-59 season, the Wildcats made sure this special season wouldn’t come to an early finish. Northwestern lost in the second round to Gonzaga in 2017 after beating Vanderbilt in its tournament debut.
Northwestern is seeking its first trip to the Sweet 16.
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