EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — Although Northwestern limped to the finish line on Wednesday night, coach Chris Collins preferred to focus on the positive.
A win is a win.
Ryan Taylor had 20 points, Vic Law added 14 and nine rebounds and Northwestern survived a second-half offensive drought to hang on for a 67-61 victory over Georgia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Dererk Pardon had 12 points and 10 rebounds as the Wildcats (6-1) won their third straight.
Northwestern had a 28-point lead with 16 minutes remaining before the offense suddenly went cold.
"I'm gonna look more at the first 25 minutes of the game when we were fresh," Collins said. "I thought our defense was really good. I thought we were connected. I thought we played with great energy and we were cutting well.
"I think guys are starting to find their stride."
Collins is so forgiving because he understands what his team has been through of late. The Wildcats played three games in four days over the weekend in the Wooden Classic in California and then couldn't travel home Sunday night because of a winter storm.
The team arrived on campus at 8 o'clock on Monday night.
"We let some fatigue kick in, but I'm glad we toughed out this win at the end," Law said. "This win shows we can be a really good team."
Jose Alvarado had 24 points for Georgia Tech (4-2).
Jose did some good things the second half, but we need him do that both halves," Yellow Jackets coach Josh Pastner said. "He had zero assists, four turnovers, and he's gotta be better than that."
Northwestern quickly established control of the game on the defensive end. Georgia Tech managed just 20 first-half points on 6-for-24 (25 percent) shooting.
Law led the way for the Wildcats with 10 first-half points, while Taylor and Anthony Gaines added eight points apiece.
Gaines hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it 40-20 at halftime, NU's biggest lead to that point.
The Wildcats were 13 of 27 (48 percent) from the field in the first half.
Northwestern opened the second half with a 10-2 run for a 50-22 lead, but Georgia Tech responded with a 13-2 run to pull within 52-35.
The Yellow Jackets picked up their defensive pressure and quickly got the Wildcats out of rhythm offensively.
The lead was down to 57-47 with 7 ½ minutes to play. Georgia Tech kept chipping away, but couldn't score consistently enough to make a serious push at winning the game. The closest the Yellow Jackets got was 66-61 on an Alvarado 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds to go.
Georgia Tech: All of the Yellow Jackets' wins so far this season have come against teams from smaller conferences. Their only other road game was a 66-53 loss against No. 6 Tennessee.
Northwestern: Despite playing three games in four days, the Wildcats had plenty of energy early, particularly on the defense end. Collins has said repeatedly that this team's success will be determined on the defensive end. It certainly was Wednesday.
The teams also played in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge a year ago with Georgia Tech winning, 52-51, in Atlanta.
They've got good chemistry," Pastner said of Northwestern. "I'm a huge fan of Coach Collins. They run good stuff. They do a really good job defensively.
"I'd be really surprised if they're not a (NCAA) tournament team."
Northwestern doesn't have much of a chance to catch its breath. Wednesday's game began a stretch of three games in seven days, including a pair of Big Ten games against Indiana and Michigan.
"It's tough, but you just got to get ready for it," Law said. "I think this gives us a very good picture of what the Big Ten is like."
Georgia Tech: Play St. John's in the Hoophall Miami Invitational on Saturday.
Northwestern: Visit Indiana on Saturday in the Big Ten opener.
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