SALT LAKE CITY -- Bryant McIntosh scored 25 points and made a pair of go-ahead free throws with 14.6 seconds left to help Northwestern hold on for a 68-66 victory over Vanderbilt in its first ever NCAA Tournament game on Thursday.
Scottie Lindsey and Dererk Pardon added 14 points apiece for the eighth-seeded Wildcats. Northwestern (24-11) will face No. 1 seed Gonzaga in the second round of the West Regional on Saturday.
Vanderbilt rallied from a 15-point second-half deficit and took a 66-65 lead on Riley LaChance's layup with 18 seconds left. But Matthew Fisher-Davis fouled McIntosh seconds later and sent him to the line. The Commodores (19-16) still had a chance for a go-ahead basket, but LaChance missed a 3-pointer with six seconds remaining.
Fisher-Davis finished with 22 points to lead ninth-seeded Vanderbilt. Luke Kornet added 14 points and LaChance chipped in 12.
McIntosh and Lindsey combined for jumpers over three straight possessions to spark a 10-0 run and give Northwestern an early 14-5 lead. Vanderbilt went nearly 4 1/2 minutes without scoring until Fisher-Davis converted a 3-point play to end the drought.
The Commodores cut it to a one-possession deficit behind 3-pointers from Payton Willis and Riley LaChance. They twice drew with a point, first on a Fisher-Davis dunk and then when Luke Kornet converted a 3-point play to make it 25-24 with 4:02 left in the half.
Each time Vanderbilt tried to erase what remained of the deficit, the Wildcats countered with critical baskets and got stops on the other end. Northwestern held the Commodores without a basket over a nine-minute stretch spanning both halves before Joe Toye broke the ice with a tip-in basket.
It opened the door for the Wildcats to go on a run. Back-to-back jumpers from McIntosh gave them their first double-digit lead at 38-28 early in the second half.
Northwestern carved out its largest lead at 49-34 after scoring three unanswered baskets over a 90-second stretch. Gavin Skelly slashed to the rim for a layup and drew a foul and then, after he missed the free throw, Nathan Taphorn buried a second-chance 3-pointer to finish off the 7-0 run.
Vanderbilt didn't go away. The Commodores answered with a 12-0 run -- punctuated by back-to-back 3-pointers from Fisher-Davis -- to cut the deficit to 49-46. They finally took their first lead of the second half on a LaChance 3-pointer with 1:36 left, going ahead 62-61.
NOTES: Northwestern shot 71.4 percent from the perimeter in the first half. G Scottie Lindsey and G Bryant McIntosh combined for 5-of-6 shooting from long-distance in the first 20 minutes. ... Vanderbilt was the first NCAA team to ever be awarded an at-large bid with 15 losses. ... Northwestern outrebounded Vanderbilt 37-30. ... The Commodores scored 27 bench points compared to 10 for the Wildcats.