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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern cruises past Xavier 79-59 in final nonconference matchup

A day after Joe McKeown’s 700th career win, his team is 10-1 heading into conference play.

Northwestern women’s basketball (10-1) finished its non-conference schedule on a high note, taking down the Xavier Musketeers (1-10) 79-59 — a team much stronger than its record shows. The victory wrapped up the Wildcats’ weekend at the West Palm Beach Invitational where they extended their winning streak to five and gained crucial momentum heading into conference play.

The NU victory was an all-around effort with Lindsay Pulliam, Abi Scheid, Veronica Burton and Abbie Wolf all finishing with double figures on the day.

Pulliam led the way with 21 well-earned points. She started the game off strong with nine points in the first quarter. Xavier attempted to shutdown Northwestern’s leading scorer, but she continued to battle and heated up in the second half to finish another game above her season scoring average.

Scheid and Burton were both instrumental in the Wildcats’ success. Scheid finished with 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting from three. Her strong performance behind the arc led the way in a 60 percent three-point shooting performance for the ‘Cats.

Burton had a big game all-around as a leader on both ends of the court. She truly stuffed the stat sheet with 18 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals, barely missing the triple-double. Even in a game in which Northwestern won by 20, she sat for just seven minutes, and the offense looked much smoother when she was in.

Xavier jumped out to the early 3-0 lead, but seven quick points from Pulliam and a 12-0 run gave the Wildcats the 16-5 lead just minutes later. Xavier responded, cutting the lead to three, but three triples from Scheid extended the Wildcat lead to 26-17 after one.

To open the second, Xavier came out hot, hitting a few big shots in a row and narrowing the Northwestern lead to four. However, NU’s blizzard defense took over, resulting in a six-minute scoring drought for the Musketeers and a 13-0 Wildcat run. Abbie Wolf came alive in the second, hitting a few big buckets to extend the Northwestern lead to 15. In the final two minutes of the half, Xavier fought back and NU led 40-30 at the break.

Early in the second half, Burton took over as an offensive force and a defensive menace. Wolf continued to feed off Burton’s aggressive play, adding to her own 10-point total. While the two teams exchanged buckets for most of the third, Pulliam came alive late in the quarter to double her nine-point total and extend Northwestern’s lead to 21 before the fourth.

Xavier tried to mount a late comeback, cutting the lead to 14 as NU faced shooting troubles for the first time all day. However, that would not last long as Northwestern’s starters continued to add to their sizable lead. The ‘Cats would ultimately win by 20.

Northwestern will begin Big Ten play on December 28th when the team travels to Champaign to take on Illinois.