Northwestern women’s basketball (9-1) took care of business in its first matchup of the West Palm Beach Invitational, defeating East Carolina University (3-8) 64-45 and earning head coach Joe McKeown his 700th career win.
As the second ranked team in the nation in steals and the third in turnover margin, NU knew the Pirates would put up a fight. However, with only seven healthy players, ECU’s depth ultimately hurt them and allowed Northwestern to extend its win streak to four.
The Wildcats posted a strong performance on both ends of the court. They held the Pirates to 45 points and recorded nine steals, five of which came from Jordan Hamilton.
On the offensive end, Lindsey Pulliam, Jordan Hamilton, and Abbie Wolf led the way with 13, 12, and 12 points, respectively, with Hamilton adding four assists and five steals off the bench. However, the Wildcat scoring was relatively even across the board, with five players scoring seven points or above, compared to just one from the Pirates.
Northwestern’s offense got off to a slow start after ECU’s lockdown defense and full-court press forced the ‘Cats to take some tough shots early on. However, a 13-0 NU run to end the first quarter gave them a 20-5 lead after one. NU held ECU to just 15.4 percent shooting and zero made threes in the first.
Northwestern continued to pull away in the second quarter behind solid three-point shooting. Whenever ECU started to fight back with small five-to-seven-point runs, the Wildcats would immediately end it with a statement three. Behind two threes from Pulliam and one each from Abi Scheid and Veronica Burton, NU extended its lead to 41-23 at the half.
East Carolina’s offense improved immensely after the first as Taniyah Thompson came alive and finished the half with 13 points to lead all scorers. However, she lacked support from her teammates, as no other Pirate had above three points in the half.
The Wildcats’ momentum continued to grow in the second half. Wolf started the third quarter strong with three buckets to double both her points and ECU’s score, making the lead 50-25. NU’s success was aided by its dominant performance on the boards, out-rebounding the Pirates 31-14 on the day and scoring 16 second-chance points. Northwestern finished the third with its largest lead thus far, 60-30.
In the fourth, NU’s bench relieved its starters, and ECU slightly chipped away at the lead; however, the Wildcats still pulled out a sizable 19-point victory.
Northwestern will take on Xavier on Saturday in its second West Palm Beach Invitational matchup and final nonconference game of the season.