Rapid Recap: No. 7 Northwestern 62, No. 10 UCF 51

Lindsey+Pulliam+drives+to+the+basket.+The+senior+guard+scored+23+points+in+No.+7+Northwestern%27s+victory+over+UCF+in+the+Round+of+64.

Joshua Hoffman/Daily Senior Staffer

Lindsey Pulliam drives to the basket. The senior guard scored 23 points in No. 7 Northwestern’s victory over UCF in the Round of 64.

Drew Schott, Web Editor


Women’s Basketball


At Bill Greehey Arena in San Antonio, No. 7 Northwestern faced off against No. 10 University of Central Florida in its first NCAA Tournament game since 2015.

With a victory, the Wildcats would advance to the Round of 32 for the first time since 1993.

Behind 25 points from Lindsey Pulliam, who became the third player in program history to score 2,000 points, NU defeated the Knights 62-51 to move on in the Big Dance. The squad will face the winner of No. 2 Louisville and No. 15 Marist.

UCF started off fast, scoring four points to NU’s zero in the first minute and quickly extended their lead to six courtesy of a layup from forward Masseny Kaba.

After Pulliam scored the Cats’ first four points of the game, NU’s defense kicked into high gear, holding the Knights scoreless for more than three minutes. A layup from junior forward Courtney Shaw then cut the deficit to two.

That’s when Jordan Hamilton shifted the momentum in the Cats’ favor.

The senior guard scored five straight points — including a 3-pointer — to give the purple-and-white its first lead of the day with a little over three minutes remaining in the first quarter.

NU would hold on to its lead at the end of the opening frame courtesy of a balanced scoring effort from Hamilton (5 points), Shaw (5 points) and Pulliam (4 points) on a 50 percent shooting percentage.

The beginning of the second quarter would see various lead changes. Leading 14-12 to start the period, the Cats soon fell behind due to a triple from UCF guard Diamond Battles. Then, two free throws from junior guard Veronica Burton — her first points of the game — put the Cats back in front.

But the tide turned towards the middle of the second quarter. While NU missed all four of its field goals, the Knights were accurate on nearly 60 percent of them, allowing UCF to take a 23-17 lead. However, Battles — who averaged 10.3 points — left the game in the second quarter with an injury.

But the Cats came clawing back.

Pulliam’s jumper with roughly four minutes remaining in the half gave the Cats their first made field goal of the quarter. She then scored NU’s next five points to tie the game at 24.

In the final two minutes and 55 seconds, the Cats only allowed one Knights basket. Offensively, NU raced out on a 6-0 scoring run to take a 30-26 lead at halftime.

The Cats continued their offensive success, scoring six points to UCF’s three in the first five minutes of the third quarter. Additionally, its defense rose to the occasion, holding the Knights scoreless for nearly four minutes and forcing the squad to miss six straight shots.

During the frame, Shaw scored two baskets to give her 10 points — her first double-digit point performance since a Jan. 6 win at Wisconsin.

To end the third quarter, NU used another 6-0 scoring run to take a 43-33 lead. While the Cats made five of its seven most recent field goals, UCF missed 12 of 14 — including five in a row — to cause a nearly three minute scoring drought.

The Knights would cut the Cats’ lead to six just after midway through the final 10 minutes. Behind a 9-0 scoring run and a more than three minute scoring drought by NU, UCF had the chance to close the gap down only 50-44.

But an and-one sequence from Pulliam helped shift momentum back into the Cats’ favor and led to the squad’s victory in the Round of 64.

Takeaways:

1. Pulliam finds the basket
The senior guard came into the NCAA Tournament with the chance to make program history. She did just that, scoring ___ points to become the third player to score 2,000 points in a Northwestern uniform. Following a Big Ten Tournament in which she scored 21 and 18 points in the Wildcats’ first two games, Pulliam continued to showcase an ability to score on big stages. She proved that once again in San Antonio on Monday. With moments such as scoring NU’s first two baskets and notching seven straight points for the Wildcats in the second quarter, the Maryland native once again proved her ability to lead NU offensively.

2. Shooting percentage makes the difference
Heading into the Round of 64, UCF held the best scoring defense in the country, allowing opponents 49.9 points per game. It gave up more than the number to Northwestern and a key reason was shooting percentage. Even though NU made only 30 percent of its 3-point shots and 71.4 percent of its free throws, the squad shot 51.2 percent overall from the field. This statistic was key as UCF shot at less than 40 percent.

3. Northwestern to face Louisville or Marist
The Cardinals, a No. 2 seed, were the runners-up in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament and hold a 23-3 record. In their last two tournaments, they’ve reached the Final Four and the Elite Eight. Louisville’s roster is currently headlined by guard Dana Evans, a first-team All American. Meanwhile, the No. 15 Red Foxes won both the regular and postseason Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title. Marist averages 63.6 points per game and allows opponents an average of only 50.0 points — the second-lowest margin in the country.

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