Northwestern defeated Duke 22-10 in the NCAA quarterfinals to return to the Final Four and keep their bid for a perfect season and an eighth national championship alive.
After a shaky performance in the opening minutes, the Wildcats bounced back in dominant fashion, dispatching the seventh-ranked Blue Devils with a 21-4 scoring run to close out their matchup.
Duke jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the opening minute, and kept NU on its heels for much of the first ten minutes of the game. The Blue Devils outshot the Cats 10-3, despite NU holding an advantage on the draw control, and jumped out to a 6-1 lead on the back of their aggressive defense.
But the Cats finally broke through in the second half of the period, kicking off an 11-2 run that put NU up 12-8 at the break. Junior forward Izzy Scane and senior forward Lauren Gilbert led the charge with three goals apiece. The Cats continued to dominate at the draw circle with 15 to Duke’s six, and finally managed to break through the Blue Devils’ backer defense to retake the lead.
In the second half, the Cats got even more aggressive offensively, continuing their fast-paced scoring from the end of the first half. The two teams traded goals in the opening minutes, before Scane, Gilbert, and graduate midfielder Lindsey McKone scored four consecutive goals, and the Cats kept rolling, with a 22-4 scoring run dating back to the first half to secure their spot in the Final Four.
1. Slow starts are becoming a thing for the Cats
NU allowed the first goal on Saturday against Duke, and against Denver in their first NCAA tournament matchup. The Cats’ ability to rally back and dominate the remainder of the game shows their resilience and skill, but against tougher competition like North Carolina, they won’t be able to bounce back easily from an early five-goal deficit.
2. Scane and Gilbert shine on offense
The Cats’ two most prolific scorers delivered their team a berth in the Final Four. Gilbert scored 6 goals, and Scane had 5 goals, to add to her nation-leading and program-record 94 this season. NU’s depth is one of its strongest assets, and nine players found the back of the net on Saturday, but Scane and Gilbert are their two biggest weapons. Their rally after falling into that early hole led the Cats’ dominant performance.
3. Northwestern returns to the Final Four for the second consecutive time
NU last made the Final Four in 2019, where it fell to Maryland in the semifinal matchup. After the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA tournament due to COVID-19, the Cats will have the opportunity to play for the program’s eighth national championship, and its first since 2012.