EVANSTON— In the opener for a season with reasonably high expectations, the Northwestern Wildcats (1-0) kept the Loyola-MD Greyhounds (0-2) at arm’s length on their way to a 67-46 victory.
Last year’s leading scorer, Lindsay Pulliam went 8-21 from the field (and 3-5 from three-point land, a career best) to lead the way with 25 points. Abbie Wolf added 14 and Abi Scheid rounded out the double-digit scorers with 10, going 2-5 from beyond the arc. Loyola’s Delaney Connolly was the only Greyhound in double figures, scoring 15 points and hitting three out of seven attempted triples.
Northwestern started slowly, going just 0-11 from the field in the first four minutes, including a few missed layups. A triple from Pulliam finally put the ‘Cats on the board with 5:18 left in the first quarter. Joe McKeown’s rode strong three-point shooting from Abi Scheid to end the first quarter up 17-12.
Throughout the second quarter, it remained a defensive battle. Besides a few lapses, Northwestern’s defense remained strong, but outside of forwards Abi Scheid and Abbie Wolf, the ‘Cats ended the first half 6-28 from the field. A strong 7-0 run while holding the Greyhounds to six points in the quarter saw the ‘Cats go into the half up 30-18.
NU’s defense remained strong to start the second half, but they were faced with another dry run on offense, going nearly three minutes without a bucket. Lindsay Pulliam led the charge in both shooting and distributing the ball, hitting a triple, finding Wolf in the post, and pulling up for a midrange jumper on consecutive possessions to stretch the ‘Cats lead to 15.
Joe McKeown utilized all 13 of his healthy players in the win, including freshmen Kayla Rainey and Laya Hartman, who scored her first career bucket in the fourth quarter. The ‘Cats proceeded to outscore the Greyhounds 20-15 in the final frame to cruise to a 21-point victory.
Defensively, the ‘Cats forced 21 turnovers. Abbie Wolf contributed two blocks while Veronica Burton had four steals. The impressive defensive display accomplished the team’s mission by “holding them under 50 points,” as Pulliam said postgame. Abi Scheid commented that “trying to outsmart and outwork them was our biggest [defensive] goal.”
On the other end of the court, the ‘Cats shot only 34% from the field but were 16-18 at the line. Jordan Hamilton struggled from the field, hitting only 1 out of 10. Pulliam, who started 0-5 herself, said postgame that she and the team “just need to keep shooting...eventually the shots will go in.”
McKeown specifically singled out the performances of Scheid, who he described at “position-less,” and Wolf, who “gives us a presence that you have to have in this league,” in his postgame press conference.
The ‘Cats go on the road to Marquette and Duke in the coming week, two tests for a team hoping to get into the conversation for the NCAA Tournament.
“It’ll be fun. These games, we just want to try to learn from them,” McKeown said of the intriguing non-conference matchups. “Our players have a chip on their shoulder, though....they know we are keeping score.”