Kianna Smith scored 16 points and No. 2 seed Louisville advanced to the Sweet 16 by rallying from an early 18-point deficit to beat seventh-seeded Northwestern 62-53 on Wednesday night.
The Cardinals (25-3) got off to another rough start, trailing 25-7 late in the first quarter. Louisville slowly started to chip away on offense and played stellar defense. The deficit was 40-28 midway through the third quarter before the Cardinals scored 17 straight points.
The game was tied at 40 heading into the fourth, and Louisville increased its first lead to 45-40 before Lindsay Pulliam — Northwestern’s third-ever 2,000-point scorer — got her only basket of the game.
The Wildcats (16-9) closed to 53-50 on Jordan Hamilton’s 3-pointer with 3:26 left. They had a chance to move closer, but Veronica Burton missed two free throws 30 seconds later.
Louisville didn’t miss from the line in the final two minutes as the Cardinals converted nine of 10 free throws to seal the game.
Northwestern blitzed Louisville right from the start, scoring the game’s first seven points and opening a 13-2 lead, leading to a timeout by the Cardinals. It didn’t get much better with the Wildcats going 4 for 4 from 3-point range on their way to a 25-10 lead after one quarter.
The Wildcats cooled off in the second quarter and didn’t score a point for the first 5:22 of the period. A fast-break layup by Courtney Shaw ended the drought and sparked a 7-0 run for Northwestern — the only points the team would score in the period. Louisville closed to 32-20 at the half.
The loss potentially ended the brilliant career of Pulliam. She had a game to forget thanks to Louisville’s stellar defense. The senior guard was 1 for 11 from the field for just four points.
Hamilton scored 17 points for Northwestern.
Northwestern fell to 0-3 all-time against Louisville, with the other two meetings coming in 1987 and 1994. … Northwestern coach Joe McKeown took George Washington to four Sweet 16s when he was coach there before coming to the Illinois school.
Louisville will face Oregon in the Sweet 16.