For the second time in four days, Northwestern women’s basketball has beaten a solid power conference opponent on the road. But after just squeaking by Marquette on Thursday, the Wildcats used a dominant third quarter to ensure that things never got nearly that close this time around.
Lindsey Pulliam led the way with 26 points on 50 percent shooting and a career-high four threes, Abbie Wolf chipped in 12 points and seven rebounds, and NU suffocated Duke defensively to keep them at arms length down the stretch, producing a noteworthy 21-point victory.
The Wildcats started off red hot, jumping out to a 19-7 lead behind five assists from point guard Veronica Burton in just the game’s first seven minutes. All in all, seven of the eight first quarter buckets from Northwestern were assisted, with three of those makes coming from beyond the arc.
But quickly, Duke reeled NU back in. The Wildcats seemed to see the basket suddenly shrink, scoring just two points in the ensuing ten minutes of action. In fact, in the first seven minutes of the second quarter, Northwestern missed eight straight shots and turned it over five times — shockingly, those marked the team’s only giveaways of the entire first three quarters.
Though their defense kept them in the game, Duke eventually went on a late run, and an Abbie Wolf layup with eight seconds to play in the half tied things at 25 into the break.
Whatever was said at halftime, it certainly helped. Northwestern came out on a 10-0 run, not allowing the Blue Devils to find a basket for the first five minutes of the third quarter. Then things got even worse for the hosts.
From the time that Duke forward Leaonna Oden cut the Wildcat lead to 38-29 with 4:14 left until the end of the frame, Northwestern ran off 16 straight points. Abi Scheid, who had all seven of her own points during the crazy run, capped things off with an end-to-end layup at the buzzer, giving NU a 54-29 advantage that proved insurmountable.
After a largely uneventful fourth quarter, the Wildcats came away with the 63-42 win. Burton finished without a point in 27 minutes of play, but the sophomore point guard led the way with eight assists. Lauryn Satterwhite and Courtney Shaw each offered six points off the bench, with the former adding three assists and the latter nabbing six boards.
Jordan Hamilton made her return for Northwestern after sitting out the Marquette game with an injury, but the sophomore guard and typical starter played just nine minutes off the bench and went 1-6 from the field.
The Wildcats shot just 39 percent from the field as a team, but they held Duke to a woeful 28.3 percent, controlling them defensively with head coach Joe McKeown’s signature “Blizzard” matchup zone hybrid. Haley Gorecki led the way for the Blue Devils with ten points, nine boards, and three assists on 4-14 shooting.
Northwestern beat Duke convincingly in their home opener last year, and this Blue Devils team, like that one, is dealing with multiple long-term injuries. But this is still a signature road win against what appeared to be a fringe NCAA Tournament team, and the Wildcats are suddenly right in the conversation when it comes to the Top 25.
NU is back in action on Thursday, when they take on Valparaiso back at Welsh-Ryan Arena.