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Northwestern is bounced by Arkansas in first round of NCAA Tournament

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The Wildcats held a 13-point second half lead, but with Lauren Douglas on the bench, Arkansas clawed back to beat NU.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern suffered from many of the same symptoms it had experienced all season, and the Wildcats fell to Arkansas Friday 57-55 in their first NCAA tournament game since 1997.

With Lauren Douglas on the bench due to an upper-body injury, Northwestern's depth was stretched thinner than usual. Alex Cohen and Nia Coffey stepped up on both ends of the floor, but Arkansas had no issue crashing the boards, grabbing 16 offensive rebounds.

After falling behind early 9-2, Northwestern went on a 9-0 run to pull ahead early in the first half. The Wildcats would shoot 10-26 from the field and turn the ball over 10 times in the game's first 20 minutes. It was a rather lackluster first half and going into break, the two sides were knotted at 23-23.

NU came out of the locker room on fire. After a 6-0 run to start the second half, the Wildcats pushed their lead all the way to 48-35. The Razorbacks stormed back with a 16-5 run of their own though, and Arkansas took a 56-55 lead with just over 30 seconds left.

Northwestern got one final possession trailing by one, but Coffey was swarmed in the paint and turned the ball over. Arkansas hit the first free throw, missed the second and Christen Inman was forced to heave from 75 feet at the buzzer.

Cohen, Coffey, Deary and Lyon all finished in double figures, accounting for all but six of Northwestern's points. The Wildcats shot 11 percentage points higher than Arkansas, but the extra possessions hurt NU in the end.

The Razorbacks were able to put up 14 more field goals and 11 more free throws than the Wildcats. Jimmy Dykes's squad kept better care of the basketball, owning the turnover margin 19-10, and they cleaned the offensive glass. An outstanding defensive performance from NU was not off to make up for the miscues.

The loss brings an end to a spectacular season for Northwestern. The Wildcats finished fourth in the Big Ten, and their 23 victories were the most in the program since 1995-96. Joe McKeown proved that he has brought the Wildcats a long way from when he took over seven years ago.