By Ari Levin
The Northwestern Wildcats are going to the WNIT Championship.
In 1996, the Wildcats made the championship, which was the known at the time as the National Women’s Invitational Tournament. Unfortunately, they lost to Arizona.
This year, though, the Wildcats have won five postseason games. An astounding postseason run has them one game away from winning a postseason championship.
And they’ll have a chance to avenge that loss to Arizona.
They’d also become the third consecutive Big Ten team to win the tournament and the fourth in the last six years. Perhaps this success suggests that more Big Ten teams should make the NCAA Tournament.
In the last week, Northwestern has shown how competitive it can be against top competition, picking up three wins against tournament bubble teams.
The Wildcats have now won 21 games this season, more than they won in any of the past four years. It’s the second-most wins of the Joe McKeown era.
They’ve raised the program’s all-time postseason record from 12-15 to multiple games above .500.
And Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah, Northwestern’s lone senior, will get to play in one last game for her career. Kunaiyi-Akpanah broke the Northwestern record on Wednesday with her 19th double-double of the season.
After three straight come-from-behind victories, the Wildcats never trailed, instead jumping out to an early lead and never looking back. Veronica Burton hit a 3-pointer 12 seconds in to the game, and the score was never closer than that. Northwestern scored the game’s first seven points and led 19-5 in the first quarter.
In the end, Northwestern (21-14) beat James Madison (29-6) by a score of 74-69, winning its third true road game of the postseason.
All five Northwestern starters scored in double figures. Leading the way, of course, was Lindsey Pulliam with 16 points. Pulliam swished two clutch free throws to ice the game. Burton added 12 on just five shot attempts, along with five assists and five steals.
Against the second-best scoring defense in the nation, the Wildcats scored 74 points, the second-most James Madison allowed this season (only Maryland scored more against the Dukes).
The championship game will be played in Tucson, Az. on Saturday at 2 p.m. central.