EVANSTON — Northwestern women’s basketball (6-1) pulled out a much-needed 66-63 win over Boston College (5-4) in Wednesday night’s ACC/B1G Challenge. The ‘Cats were ultimately able to take care of business in the end, but had to overcome their worst rebounding performance of the season.
Despite having a slight size advantage, Northwestern was destroyed 53-29 on the glass, with Boston College recording a whopping 21 offensive boards. NU’s three post players combined for a total of 15 rebounds on the day and allowed way too many second-chance shots and general interior opportunities for the Eagles.
However, behind 25 key points from Lindsey Pulliam and 13 off the bench from Byrdy Galernik, Northwestern was able to edge out a below-average opponent.
While the Wildcats were hoping to come out hot after a tough loss to No. 16 DePaul on Sunday, they instead got off to arguably their slowest start all year. The two teams exchanged buckets early on before NU went on a 5-0 run and recorded two charges in a three minute stretch. Northwestern held the 18-14 lead at the end of one, but its momentary momentum would not hold for long.
The second quarter started in a similar fashion as the first, with both teams trading scores for the first few minutes. However, an 11-0 run from the Eagles in the middle of the quarter gave BC the 25-20 lead with five minutes remaining in the half. The ‘Cats lost the battle inside on numerous occasions while simultaneously allowing Milan Bolden-Morris to pick apart the NU defense with a few huge outside shots.
The BC lead would not last for long. Northwestern immediately responded with two big threes — one from Pulliam and one from Abi Scheid — to regain the 26-25 lead just 30 seconds later. Northwestern would maintain a 34-30 lead at the half.
In the entire first half, the Eagles had just six total possessions where they were only allowed a single shot. Wolf had a particularly difficult half, pulling down just one rebound in 17 minutes of play.
The third quarter resembled much of the first half, as the game remained tight throughout. Kayla Rainey entered the game and recorded two big assists and a steal on four minutes of play, which helped keep the ‘Cats in control.
The rebounding troubles only worsened, as Sydney Wood was the only Wildcat who seemed to consistently crash the boards. However, Wolf improved, pulling down three more rebounds in the quarter.
Each team came out hot in the fourth quarter. A few big shots from Byrdy Galernik off Veronica Burton assists kept the Wildcats lead at five, despite persistent BC three-point shooting. After a bit of a cold stretch, the Eagles banked in a three, cutting it to one with just over two minutes to play.
After another key Pulliam bucket and a few wasted possessions, with 30 seconds left, Northwestern led by three, and BC had the ball. After a lockdown defensive possession and a steal from Burton, the Eagles committed an intentional foul, which left the fate of the game in the Wildcats’ hands. Pulliam made two free throws to seal it.
Burton added a crucial six assists and three steals on the day to put up the best plus-minus of any player, +14. Pulliam put the team on her back, hitting a few big shots down the stretch and adding to her game-leading tally. For BC, Emma Guy had 13, Bolden-Morris had 14, Cameron Swartz added 11, and Makayla Dickens and Taylor Soule combined for 19 boards.
While the win was not earned in the same decisive fashion that we had grown accustomed to seeing from this group, the ‘Cats have proved they can take care of business when they need to.
NU will next host Dartmouth on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Welsh-Ryan Arena.