The Northwestern Wildcats led by as many as 18 points in their second round NCAA Women’s Tournament game against the second-seeded Louisville Cardinals on Wednesday afternoon, but they faltered in the second half of the game, losing 62-53.
Northwestern led 25-10 after the first quarter and 32-20 at halftime, but they only managed to score 18 points in the second half as the Cardinals stormed back and set up a Sweet 16 matchup against the Oregon Ducks later this week.
Jordan Hamilton had 12 points in the first quarter and 17 overall, with five rebounds and two assists to her credit. Courtney Shaw had three blocks in the first quarter and contributed 10 points and five rebounds in the losing effort.
The Wildcats got off to a remarkable start in the game, holding the Cardinals to a 20% shooting performance in the first quarter. They had seven blocks as a team in the quarter, and Hamilton was a perfect 4-for-4 from the field as they raced out to a 15-point advantage after just 10 minutes of play.
The second quarter continued to see the Wildcats playing well at both ends of the floor, with the Wildcats going on a 7-0 run to stave off a Louisville rally in the middle of the frame. Through all of that, the Wildcats emerged with a 32-20 lead at the break.
Louisville, who was 0-3 in this season when trailing at halftime, came flying out of the gates in the third quarter, outscoring Northwestern by a 20-8 margin and completely erasing their halftime deficit. Kianna Smith scored eight points in the third quarter, and Olivia Cochran’s free throw in the closing seconds tied the game up at 40-40.
The Cardinals went up by five points early in the fourth quarter thanks to another quick surge, with Smith and Hailey Van Lith scoring early buckets. Smith then made a jumper with eight minutes to go in the game to put the Cardinals in front by five points.
Northwestern did get within three points with two minutes remaining in the contest, but they couldn’t climb the final hill, with Olivia Cochran and Smith each making a pair of free throws to keep the Wildcats at bay.
Northwestern, whose win Monday was their first in an NCAA Tournament since 1993, will now head home, while the Cardinals will face the Ducks on Saturday evening in the Sweet 16.