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Northwestern falls to #16 DePaul 70-68 in heartbreaker

The Wildcats hung with the Blue Demons the whole way, but couldn’t quite get over the top.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 08 Women’s - Northwestern at Michigan

EVANSTON — A jumper by Sonja Morris with 43 seconds left ended Northwestern women’s basketball’s upset bid, allowing the 16th-ranked DePaul Blue Demons (6-1) to leave Welsh-Ryan Arena with a 70-68 win.

Morris finished with 22 points on 10-14 shooting, and star forward Chante Stonewall had 25 for the Blue Demons, paving the way for head coach Doug Bruno’s 700th career win during his time at DePaul. Abbie Wolf led the way for the Wildcats (5-1) with 18, while Byrdy Galernik and Lindsey Pulliam each had 16.

DePaul began the game shooting the lights out. They started 6-7 from the field, with three of those makes coming from beyond the arc, and jumped out to a 17-10 lead, with all ten of Northwestern’s points coming on assisted layups from Abbie Wolf.

Immediately, the Wildcats bounced back, with a quick 7-0 run closing the deficit. The Blue Demons led 19-17 at the end of one, and that margin stayed largely the same thought a back-and-forth second quarter, with every Northwestern run countered by their crosstown rivals and vice-versa.

DePaul ended the first half with a 39-38 lead despite only three players having more than a single made field goal (all three, Dee Bekelja, Stonewall, and Morris, were in double figures). Northwestern went 16-25 from the field over the first 20 minutes, buoyed by a 10-12 mark on layups and nine second quarter points from Galernik off the bench.

In the third quarter, the Wildcats quickly cooled off. DePaul staked itself to a 50-42 lead, its largest of the game, by suffocating NU on defense, refusing to allow them to get the ball into the lane.

Again, though, Northwestern battled back. Weathering a nine-minute stretch in which they scored just twice from the field, the ‘Cats finished off an 11-2 run to close the third quarter and take a 53-52 lead with a three and then another bucket from Galernik, who scored all of her career-high 16 points in the first 13 minutes she played. The senior point guard also managed two steals and two assists.

DePaul kept the pressure on to open up the final quarter, quickly retaking the lead. But behind big buckets from Wolf and Pulliam and then a clutch three from Burton, her first and only field goal in 35 total minutes of action, the ‘Cats drew back within one.

Missed shots from the Blue Demons and four tough points each for Pulliam and Courtney Shaw gave Northwestern a sudden 68-65 lead with 1:36 to play, and a path to victory suddenly seemed clear. Alas, it was not to be.

Morris hit two jumpers, including the eventual game-winner, around a shot-clock violation and, off an immediate steal, two crucial missed free throws for Burton. Then, with a chance for NU to potentially win the game on the line, an attempted post entry to Pulliam was deflected and stolen by Stonewall.

Five quick fouls for Northwestern reached the bonus with 7.2 seconds to go. But after Bekelja missed both free throws, the officials could not decide, even on replay review, who touched the ball last when it went out of bounds (though it looked both live and on replay to be off DePaul). The held ball gave possession to the Blue Demons, who ran four more seconds off the clock and forced Pulliam to foul herself out. Stonewall made one of two at the line, and Abi Scheid’s desperation heave at the buzzer wasn’t close.

DePaul, who averaged 91 points per contest coming in, finished with by far their lowest output of the season. The Wildcats, who committed 18 turnovers themselves even though they handled the press of the Blue Demons relatively well, forced their opponents into 20 turnovers of their own.

Burton added five points, six assists, and four steals for Northwestern, and Shaw contributed seven points and three boards off the bench. On the other side of the court, point guard Kelly Campbell had seven rebounds and 11 assists despite not scoring a point before fouling out late.

Next up for the Wildcats is a home tilt with Boston College on Wednesday in the ACC/Big Ten challenge.