Women’s Basketball: Cold-shooting Wildcats bow out of NCAA Tournament with second-round loss to Louisville

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Joe McKeown talks to his team during a timeout. A poor second-half shooting performance cost the Wildcats the chance to reach their first Sweet 16.

Benjamin Rosenberg, Daily Senior Staffer


Women’s Basketball


For the first 10 minutes Wednesday, Northwestern could do no wrong. For the next 30, on the offensive end, the Wildcats did very little right.

And in a season full of lackluster shooting performances, it was only fitting for that to be the way NU’s NCAA Tournament run came to an end in San Antonio.

Seeking its first-ever trip to the Sweet 16, the No. 7 seed Cats (16-9, 11-7 Big Ten) came out firing, making all four three-point attempts in the first quarter and sprinting out to an 18-point lead. But NU, whose best offense was its defense for much of the year, was never going to maintain that pace. And against a team as strong as No. 2 seed Louisville, that scorching-hot start wasn’t enough.

The Cardinals (25-3, 14-2 ACC) outscored the Cats by 24 over the final three quarters, winning 62-53. After NU shot 64 percent from the floor in the opening quarter, Louisville held the Cats under 25 percent the rest of the way.

“Give Louisville credit, they came out in the second half and really locked down defensively,” coach Joe McKeown said. “They were physical. We were aggressive too, trying to get to the basket. We had a lot of shots that I thought were really good shots that didn’t go in.”

NU’s renowned blizzard defense did its part — only two teams had held the Cardinals to fewer than 63 points all season. Louisville hit just 28 percent of its shots in the first half. But after putting up 25 in the first quarter, it took until deep into the fourth for the Cats to put another 25 on the board.

If this was the last game of senior guard Lindsey Pulliam’s college career — she has the option for an extra year of eligibility, granted by the NCAA after the pandemic — it was one to forget. NU kept trying to get her signature midrange shot going, but it never did. She finished with just four points on 1-for-11 shooting.

“I told her after the game, she’s the reason we’re here,” McKeown said. “Louisville did a pretty good job denying her the ball, switching, they forced her into some fades. She’s a great player, and I feel for her because her blood is on every court in the Big Ten and it’s here tonight.”

With Pulliam’s production limited, the Cats’ other senior starter carried them at times. Jordan Hamilton, a Texas native, had 12 points in the first quarter and led all scorers with 17 in the game. But NU may have ridden Hamilton a bit too hard in the second half, when she made just one of seven from behind the arc.

Junior guard Veronica Burton and junior forward Courtney Shaw were also in double figures, with 13 and 10 points, respectively. Shaw scored six of the Cats’ eight third-quarter points, but she struggled at times to find openings against Louisville’s taller players, and Burton missed a pair of key free throws in the fourth that hindered NU’s comeback attempt.

“The free throws, we’ve seen it all year, myself included,” Burton said. “It’s such an easy thing that gets overlooked sometimes. Knocking those down at a higher clip will be huge for us. It’s just getting those little things done from beginning to end. We hate for it to come down to that, but we have a long offseason ahead of us, so we’re excited.”

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Twitter: @bxrosenberg

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