Northwestern won its first NCAA Tournament game under coach Joe McKeown and its first since 1993.
The No. 7 seed Wildcats held off a challenge from No. 10 seed Central Florida, 62-51, in Monday’s first-round game in San Antonio.
Guard Lindsey Pulliam led the Wildcats with 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting, surpassing the 2,000-point career scoring mark.
Northwestern advances to a second-round game Wednesday and will face the winner of No. 2 Louisville vs. No. 15 Marist.
The Wildcats were knocked out of the first round in 2015 and have played in the WNIT five times, including a runner-up finish in 2019, since McKeown was hired in 2008. Last season, Northwestern felt it had potential for a tournament run before the postseason was canceled as COVID-19 spread through the nation.
Northwestern went on 6-0 run to close first half with a 30-26 lead. The Wildcats took a 50-35 lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Knights charged back to pull within 55-49 with 2 minutes, 16 seconds left.
Pulliam and her teammates made enough plays to keep UCF at bay.
The game opened up for Northwestern after Central Florida star Diamond Battles left in the second quarter with an apparent right knee injury. She came out of the locker room with a large brace and on crutches.
The Wildcats forced 20 turnovers, scoring 21 points off the Knights’ miscues. They held UCF to 36.8% shooting while Northwestern made 51.2% of its attempts.
Veronica Burton, who led the Wildcats with 16.9 points a game entering Monday, was held to five points before fouling out. Courtney Shaw added 12 points and four rebounds, and Jordan Hamilton contributed eight points and eight assists.
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