Northwestern (15-10, 8-7 B1G) watched another opportunity for a marquee win fall by the wayside Sunday night, as Karissa McLaughlin and the Boilermakers (17-11, 8-7) edged them late for the second time this season.
McLaughlin had 28 on 9-of-11 shooting from beyond the arc, including a contested setback three to win the game for Purdue with 1.4 seconds to play, as Northwestern fell 61-58 at Mackey Arena.
Lindsey Pulliam scored 16, but it took her 21 shots to get there, and Abi Scheid added 14 as the Wildcats dropped to 1-5 in Big Ten play in games decided by four points or less (including all overtime contests).
How many heartbreakers can one team have?— Inside NU (@insidenu) February 18, 2019
This time Purdue hit the game winning three with 1.4 seconds left. Gutwrencher. https://t.co/riquPLgF5w
After a back-and-forth first quarter in which Northwestern center Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah picked up two quick fouls, the Wildcats started to take control near halftime. A 6-0 run gave Northwestern a seven point lead, and they carried that advantage into the break despite some hot three point shooting from the Boilermakers.
Coming out of halftime, Abi Scheid, who continued her hot shooting streak by going 4-of-7 from beyond the arc on the game, hit two threes around a Veronica Burton triple, propelling the Wildcats to their largest lead of the game at ten. But Karissa McLaughlin drilled a pair of threes, Dominique Oden drilled two more, and suddenly the game was tied entering the fourth quarter.
Northwestern didn’t score for the first three minutes of the final frame, but their defense kept them in it initially. However, after Sidney Wood gave the Wildcats the lead back with a pair of free throws, the Boilermakers went on an 8-0 run spearheaded by another McLaughlin trey to go up 58-51 with three minutes left.
Scheid hit another three in response, though, and Wood knocked down two more free throws. All of a sudden, after a couple of scrambles for the ball, Pulliam knocked down a huge transition jumper off a Burton steal to re-tie the game with 34 seconds left.
But a kicked ball with 4.2 left set the stage for McLaughlin, and she delivered once again. A long Scheid three to tie at the horn rimmed in and out, and the Wildcats were stuck with another devastating loss.
Burton, the first-year point guard, stuffed the stat sheet for Northwestern, recording seven points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals against just one turnover. Kunaiyi-Akpanah added four steals and 11 boards, putting her three away from becoming just the second Wildcat (male or female) to ever record 1,000 career rebounds.
With the loss, Northwestern’s NCAA Tournament hopes have been placed in serious jeopardy. Unless they win out in the regular season, the Wildcats would likely to have to win the Big Ten Tournament (not out of the question!) to make the Big Dance.
But for some perspective, if Northwestern wins their next two games, home against Nebraska and home against Indiana, they will secure only the second winning conference record in the program’s last 22 seasons. Regardless of the way this season finishes, it’s been a successful one, especially with only one senior graduating out of the program.
The Wildcats will take on the Cornhuskers this Thursday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena.