The game got close at the end, but Northwestern women’s basketball continued its run of good form by knocking off the Wisconsin Badgers 68-63 in the First Round of the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday afternoon.
Playing as the No. 12 seed, Northwestern brought its A-game to Bankers Life Arena, something that seems to happen every year. The Wildcats got 24 points from Lindsey Pulliam and 14 from Abi Scheid. Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah chipped in 13 points, 9 rebounds and some stingy defense as well. Wisconsin made a big comeback in the fourth, but Jordan Hamilton drew a charge at the end of regulation to ensure the Wildcats held on for a solid win.
The Badgers got off to a poor start from the field and were down 12-5 in the early stages of the game. While Wisconsin rallied, a crushing 7-0 Northwestern run to start the second quarter set the tone for the next 20 minutes of play. The Wildcats were executing offensively and held Wisconsin to 24.2 percent from the field in the first half. It was 31-22 Northwestern at halftime and felt like it could’ve been more.
Northwestern outscored Wisconsin by 15 over the second and third quarters. Abi Scheid scored 9 of her 14 points in the third quarter alone, helping to stretch Northwestern’s lead to a seemingly insurmountable 17 points by the end of the quarter.
But Wisconsin would not go down without a fight. The Badgers played a fantastic fourth quarter, trimming Northwestern’s 17-point lead down to just two. Cayla McMorris, playing in her final game as a Wisconsin Badger, was everywhere. She put up 22 points for Wisconsin and made a real game of it. But with Wisconsin down three with 17 seconds left, the Badgers ran a confused possession that should’ve ended with a potential game-tying three, but instead ended with a Roichelle Marble drive to the basket. Marble went into the lane with just seconds left, drew contact from Jordan Hamilton, and scored the bucket. For a moment, it looked like disaster had ensued, but the referee under the basket whistled Marble for a charge, and Northwestern retook possession. The Wildcats held on for the win.
Northwestern plays on Thursday against No. 5 seed Iowa and Big Ten Player of the Year Megan Gustafson, which beat Northwestern comfortably in Evanston the last time the two teams faced.