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Northwestern-Vanderbilt Final Score: Wildcats hold on to win 68-66

It wasn’t easy, but Northwestern held on. The Wildcats are 1-0 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Northwestern vs Vanderbilt Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern’s first dance will last at least one more song.

The eighth-seeded Wildcats (24-11, 10-8 B1G) held on to beat ninth-seeded Vanderbilt (19-16, 10-8 SEC) in a 68-66 thriller to earn a second-round date with top-seeded Gonzaga Saturday.

Bryant McIntosh was the hero for Northwestern, scoring 25 huge points on 10-of-16 shooting. But Dererk Pardon was also huge for the Wildcats, scoring 14 points and hitting some clutch free throws late in the game.

Bryant McIntosh got things started for Wildcats, putting Northwestern up 2-0 after knifing through the lane for a layup... Pardon put the Wildcats up 4-0 with a layup of his own before Vanderbilt seven-footer Luke Kornet hit a deep three late in the shot clock. A Riley LaChance lay-in gave the Commodores the lead, but McIntosh responded with a three on the next possession. A Lindsey jumper sent Northwestern into the under-16 timeout leading 9-5.

McIntosh picked up right where he left off after the timeout, draining a floater in the middle of the floor. The Wildcats were tight to Vanderbilt shooters early on, and Pardon handled Kornet well in the post. The Commodores started the game 3-of-12 from the floor.

Isiah Brown got in the game, and per usual, came in looking to shoot. After his own pass ricocheted back off of a cutting Gavin Skelly, Brown drove in for a lay-up to push the lead to 14-5, capping a 10-0 run and forcing Vanderbilt head coach Bryce Drew to call a timeout with 12:29 to play in the half.

After two-and-a-half scoreless minutes from the two teams, McIntosh hit another three, his fourth straight make to start the game. Then the Commodores went on a run of their own.

A Kornet three-point play forced McIntosh to leave the game with two fouls, and a quick four points from Payton Willis cut the lead to 17-14 at the under-8.

McIntosh didn’t sit for long though, and, along with Scottie Lindsey, spurred another run for the Wildcats as the first half wound to a close.

Lindsey hit two threes late in the half, and McIntosh added another one of his own. The Wildcats closed the half on a 9-0 run to lead 34-27 at the break, in large part thanks to a combined 25 points from McIntosh and Lindsey. The Wildcats shot 56 percent in the first half, while the Commodores shot 35 percent. Northwestern largely contained the Commodores typically potent perimeter scoring, holding Vanderbilt to 4-of-10 from three in the opening 20 minutes. Northwestern shot 5-of-7 from three in the half.

Out of the break, McIntosh’s hot-shooting continued. The Junior from Greensburg, Indiana hit a pair of jumpers to extend the Northwestern lead to 38-28 and force Drew to call another timeout. After Vic Law Jr. got his first points of the day with a jumper, McIntosh hit yet another floater, giving him 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting.

Vanderbilt then went cold from the outside, as Northwestern kept rolling. Pardon found space for an easy two on the inside, before Gavin Skelly hit a layup plus the foul on the next possession. Skelly missed the ensuing free throw, but Pardon corralled the rebound and kicked the ball to Nathan Taphorn, who drained a triple to make the lead 49-35 with just under 14 minutes to play. The large contingent of Northwestern fans at the game nearly blew the roof off the building.

What kept the game within reach was the foul line. Northwestern started 1-of-7 from the stripe, while Vanderbilt began 11-of-13.

Then the Commodores came alive from the wing.

After a Joe Toye three-point play, Nolan Cressler and Fisher-Davis hit threes on back-to-back possessions to trim the lead to 49-43 with 11:47 to play, forcing Chris Collins to take timeout. That nine-point outburst took just over 90 seconds of game time.

Lindsey proceeded to miss a three on the other end, and Fisher-Davis then hit another three, this time an off-balance shot from the corner to make the score 49-46.

Pardon stopped the scoring run at 12 with a midrange jumper, before Lindsey took a steal to the rim for another layup. The Commodore offense kept clicking, though, as Willis added an easy bucket.

Northwestern then slowed things down offensively, and Pardon followed a miss by Lindsey to make the lead seven again at 55-48. Drew then called his final timeout with 7:12 to play.

Fisher-Davis hit two shots out of the timeout, cutting the lead to 55-52. McIntosh answered with another floater, but Kornet hit his first three since the early moments of the game to make it a two-point game.

As the clock ticked down under five minutes, Pardon drew a foul, and went on to hit both free throws to make the score 59-55. Cressler then missed two shots at the rim, but Jeff Roberson tracked down the offensive rebound, and Fisher-Davis was fouled on a three-point shot with 2:40 left in the game.

Fisher-Davis hit all three at the line, but got loose on the next possession, drawing a foul and hitting a pair of free throws with 2:30 left.

With Northwestern leading 61-58, Law Jr. was called for a foul off the ball, and Fisher-Davis hit one of two from at the stripe.

McIntosh was stuffed at the rim on the next possession, and LaChance buried a deep three with Pardon switched on him to give Vanderbilt its first lead since 5-4. But McIntosh kept coming. The Captain got into the paint once again, calmly hitting another floater, giving Northwestern the lead right back at 63-62 with 1:11 to play.

Fisher-Davis missed a long three on the following possession, and Law Jr. skied for the rebound, drawing the fourth foul on Kornet in the process. Law Jr. missed the front end of the one-and-one though, and Robertson found himself wide open for a layup on the other end.

McIntosh drove in again, this time missing. But Pardon was right there for the rebound, and drew the fifth foul on Luke Kornet in the process. Pardon drained the ensuing pair, and Vanderbilt brought the ball up with 26.1 seconds to play, down by one. LaChance found space inside, though, and hit a layup to make the score 66-65 in favor of the Commodores.

But, Fisher-Davis seemingly intentionally fouled McIntosh on the next possession, and McIntosh hit a pair of free throws with 14 seconds to play to give a Northwestern 67-66 advantage. That lead would be decisive.

LaChance clanged a three with less than 10 seconds to play, and the rebound went out of bounds to Northwestern with 1.4 seconds to play.

Vanderbilt would get one more chance after Lumpkin hit 1-of-2 at the line, but its three-quarter-court heave would not fall. As the final buzzer sounded, the scoreboard read 68 Northwestern-66 Vanderbilt.