Ryan Langborg helps Northwestern by FAU in NCAA tournament

ByJordan Raanan ESPN logo
Friday, March 22, 2024

BROOKLYN, N.J. -- There is something about the NCAA tournament that gets Ryan Langborg going. The Princeton transfer saved Northwestern on Friday by scoring its first seven points of overtime in a 77-65 win over Florida Atlantic in the first round at Barclays Center.

Langborg, who broke out in last season's tournament, finished with a game-high 27 points to take out the East's ninth seed in FAU, which reached the Final Four last season.

With its season on the line, eighth-seeded Northwestern leaned on Langborg after a Brooks Barnhizer driving lay-in with under 10 seconds remaining sent the game into overtime.

"That's how I roll as a coach. If somebody gets it going, I'm going to ride that player," Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. "That's what I wanted when I was a player and people coaching me. You see a guy get it going, you're going to ride that hot hand."

Langborg opened overtime with a pair of midrange jumpers. He then hit a 3-pointer that gave the Wildcats a six-point lead they never relinquished.

After each basket, a sneaky smile crept onto his face. He was getting hot again, and couldn't miss in the tournament for a second straight year.

"We were just having fun," Langborg said. "I usually don't celebrate a lot when I make shots. But I know I had my tongue out and things like that. So ... we were just feeling good and having fun out there."

Langborg, who averaged just over 12 points per game this season for the Wildcats, finished with 12 points in overtime. He outscored FAU (12-7) in the extra session.

It only adds to his legend of performing his best on the biggest stage.

The 6-foot-4 guard averaged just under 13 points per game last season for Princeton. But he averaged almost 19 points in the Tigers' run to the Sweet 16, including 22 and 26 points in their final two games against Missouri and Creighton, respectively.

That contributed to Langborg, a grad transfer, landing with Northwestern, which was playing in the same opening weekend region as Princeton.

"He's meant a lot. The cool thing about college sports is when Ryan came on his visit in the spring, as soon as he touched down and we started to spend some time together -- I hosted him -- I knew he was going to come here," Barnhizer said. "We had this connection where, I don't even know how to describe it, as soon as we were actually roommates and lived together, he's meant so much to our team being a leader and being an everyday guy.

"I can't really describe the friendship, the leadership, he's had not only for me and Boo, but other guys on our team. So he's meant the world to our squad for sure."

Without Langborg, Northwestern's season might be over. The Wildcats allowed a nine-point lead to disappear in the final seven minutes against FAU. But as soon as he hit a shot in overtime, Collins didn't hesitate to ride the hot hand.

"As a shooter, when a guy gets going you can see it in his eyes when he's really hot," Collins said. "So I emptied my Langborg package with the playbook."

They'll need it again on Sunday. Northwestern will face No. 1 seed Connecticut in the second round.