EVANSTON — After returning home from a 2-0 road trip, Northwestern (4-0) continued their hot start to the season and rode an extremely strong defensive outing to dispel Valparaiso (1-3), 69-48.
The ‘Cats defense came out in a high press to start the game and forced four turnovers from the Crusaders in the first five minutes of play. By the half, Valparaiso had turned the ball over 13 times.
“I really like how we’re playing defense; I like how we’re practicing it and communicating,” head coach Joe McKeown said.
To begin the game, however, the Crusaders came out on fire, shooting 4-6 from three in the first quarter alone. They soon cooled off, though, and the ‘Cats defense took over, holding Valparaiso to just three total points in the second quarter on 1-8 shooting (0-5 from three).
“We really started focusing on stopping their three point shooting,” senior forward Abi Scheid said. “A big stat that they had was that they had was that they had four threes in the first quarter, so we focused on getting a hand up in their face because literally everyone on their team could shoot.”
In addition to a suffocating defensive performance, the ‘Cats dominated on the glass and out-rebounded the Crusaders 20-13 in the first half and 42-32 on the game. Senior center Abbie Wolf led the way for Northwestern on the glass with six rebounds in the first half alone.
While Northwestern got off to a somewhat shaky start offensively, Scheid carried the load, scoring 13 first half points on 5-6 shooting (3-4 from three). Sophomore Sydney Wood also had a strong first half, stuffing the stat sheet with four points, five rebounds and four assists.
Neither team had a particularly amazing start to the second half. As Valparaiso cleaned up their turnovers and shot 5-15 from the field (0-6 from three). Meanwhile, Northwestern shot 5-18 (1-7 from three) in the quarter. The ‘Cats outscored the Crusaders 15-13 in the third.
In the fourth quarter, the ‘Cats were able to close the door early on. Scheid added on to her strong first half by burying two quick three pointers, finishing the game with an extremely efficient 21 points on 8-11 shooting (5-7 from three) while Wolf finished just shy of a double-double, posting 11 points and nine total rebounds.
“The overall goal is to win. I’ll do whatever I can to help the team,” Scheid added. “If that’s shoot, then I’ll shoot.”
Valparaiso did make a bit of a comeback effort near the end, going on a 15-2 run late in the fourth, but it was far too little too late. The ‘Cats held a lead for all but 10 seconds of the game.
Overall, Northwestern got the job done and showed its depth on the offensive end from the likes of Scheid, Byrdy Galernik (who finished with 10 and made both of her three point attempts), and Wolf. It was a quiet night for leading scorer Lindsay Pulliam, who averaged 23.3 points per game coming in, but shot a disappointing 1-12 (0-3 from three) and scored just two points.
The ‘Cats will attempt to continue their hot start to the season at home against Colgate on Wednesday, Nov. 27 at 2 p.m.