Dragged down by their worst offensive performance of the season, Northwestern (5-1) fell to struggling Pitt (5-4) as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah led the way with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 steals, but Northwestern, dragged down by injuries, couldn’t muster enough offense around her to steal a win.
Northwestern started relatively slow, but finished an ugly first quarter with a 12-10 lead. But the second quarter was even worse. Northwestern finished the half trailing 19-18. They had scored more than 18 in each quarter against UT-Martin last week.
The Wildcats came out equally flat in the third quarter. They finished the frame with nine made field goals, thanks in part to an 0-of-12 performance from beyond the three point line. But thanks to solid defense, they still trailed by only three, leaving open the distinct possibility of their third fourth quarter comeback of the year.
Alas, it was not to be. With Jordan Hamilton’s exit in the third quarter thanks to a head injury, adding to the absences of starting forward Abi Scheid and starting point guard Veronica Burton, Northwestern couldn’t quite make up enough ground.
Kunaiyi-Akpanah’s energy on both ends of the floor kept them in it before the Nigeria native fouled out. Then Jess Sancataldo’s two threes, after Sidney Wood broke through for the team’s first triple of the night, pulled the Wildcats within three. But Lindsey Pulliam, in the midst of a 4-of-18 shooting performance, missed two potential game-tying threes down the stretch.
For Pitt, coming off a loss to Big Ten bottom-feeder Wisconsin, Cassidy Walsh led the way with 11. Kyla Nelson and Jasmine Whitney scored 10 apiece, while Kauai Bradley finished with seven points and 13 rebounds.
Outside of Kunaiyi-Akpanah, Northwestern struggled mightily to produce. Pulliam had ten despite an awful shooting night. Byrdy Galernik and Bryana Hopkins combined for 52 minutes, but each scored only an ultimately meaningless basket in the final seconds.
The Wildcats next take the court against No.16 DePaul Wednesday.