Women’s Basketball: Northwestern advances to the second round of the NCAA tournament with the Cats’ first NCAA win since 1993


Joshua Hoffman/Daily Senior Staffer

Junior guard Veronica Burton drives down the lane. She scored four points in Northwestern’s Round of 64 victory.

Skye Swann, Reporter

Women’s Basketball

The abrupt end of the 2019-2020 season left the Cats with unfinished business—particularly the NCAA tournament.

“(Last year) was very motivating for us,” senior guard Lindsey Pulliam said. “All the time we talk about having a chip on our shoulder and that’s exactly what we did today coming in.”

After clinching a berth in the NCAA tournament this season, NU danced its way into San Antonio to play UCF. The team showed up big Monday, grabbing a 62-51 win over the Knights and advancing to the second round of the tournament for the first time since 1993.

Northwestern opened the game slower than usual, missing easy layups inside the paint and both shot attempts behind the arc as UCF built up a six point lead. But the first round jitters disappeared later in the first quarter as the Wildcats got comfortable on the court. Pulliam hit her signature pull up jumper from mid range. From there, NU gained control of their offensive possession and started playing their game.

Defensively, the Wildcats’ blizzard zone defense gave the Knights a run for their money. NU forced 20 UCF turnovers and converted these into 21 points to win the game. The Cats played with high intensity, clogging up any open lanes inside.

“We pride ourselves on defense and we know that they pride themselves on defense so we just came into (the game) knowing that we were going to be better and be the aggressors,” Pulliam said.

Alongside Pulliam, junior forward Courtney Shaw and senior guard Jordan Hamilton helped with scoring efforts. Pulliam led scoring with 25 points, Shaw had 12, and Hamilton had eight.

But NU’s high pressure defensive play was matched by that of the Knights. Early in the second quarter, the Wildcats struggled to connect their shots going 0-for-4 on field goal attempts. UCF guard Diamond Battles led the Knights’ scoring with six points until she exited the game with a lower leg injury.

The remainder of the second quarter was a Pulliam shooting clinic against UCF’s defense. In a five minute span, she shot 3-for-4 on field goal attempts — becoming the third Northwestern women’s basketball player to score 2,000 career points. She pushed the Cats to take a four point lead at halftime.

NU started the second half rocky, allowing the Knights to cut into their lead. Pulliam put a stop to a budding UCF run after hitting a smooth three point play involving a turn around jumper.
While junior guard Veronica Burton was silent today offensively, her defensive presence was quite the opposite. The 2-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year did not make it easy for the Knights’ offense. She grabbed six rebounds — one fourth of the Cats’ total rebounds.

The fourth quarter put the Cats’ comfortable fifteen point lead up for grabs as UCF went on a 9-0 scoring run, shrinking the lead to a mere six points. Burton fouled out with five minutes left in the game, putting NU at a defensive disadvantage.

Over the course of the next three minutes, the ball went back and forth as each team put buckets in the net. Junior guard Lauryn Satterwhite came up with a big steal to stop the Knights from taking the lead.

In the game’s final minute, the Cats made four free-throws, pushing the lead to 11 points. With this win, NU is advancing to the second round of the tournament and is scheduled to play No. 2 Louisville on Wednesday.

“I love being the underdog,” Pulliam said. “I think it puts a bigger chip on our shoulder and motivates us even more to come out and be aggressive and prove people wrong.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @sswann301

Related Stories: 

Women’s Basketball: Northwestern headed to NCAA Tournament for first time since 2015

Women’s Basketball: Northwestern’s lack of energy was the nail to the coffin in their disappointing 52-85 loss to Maryland

Women’s Basketball: Lindsey Pulliam is leaving her mark as one of Northwestern’s greatest basketball players