Northwestern leads Vanderbilt at halftime of NCAA tourney debut

Payton Willis #1 of the Vanderbilt Commodores reacts with teammates after a play in the first half against the Northwestern Wildcats during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 16, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. If they win that game, it'll be a shocking upset.

The query, one of the dozens the Wildcats fielded before their maiden voyage into March Madness, left Northwestern point guard Bryant McIntosh staring back at a reporter with a serious gaze. Vanderbilt's Matthew Fisher-Davis appeared to intentionally foul McIntosh while VU had a one-point lead.

But then the tide changed, with Vanderbilt scoring 12 consecutive points to make it a tight game again.

McIntosh would sink both free throws, and the Wildcats hung on to win the game.

Northwestern also made a strong late-season run, but a blowout loss to Wisconsin in the Big 10 tournament was an abrupt end to their season.

The Wildcats, who will be making their first ever appearance in the tournament, are considered to be slight favorites in the battle between the eighth and ninth seeds in the West Regional, but after an up-and-down regular season, the Wildcats are still poised for a fight against the Commodores.

Despite some early foul issues, the Cats made seven of their last nine field goals to close the half with a 34-27 lead. Collins can recruit on the back of some success now, after he could only sell hope in the past.

And the wild thing?

  • Julie Sanders