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Women’s basketball: Slow start dooms Wildcats against No. 10 Maryland

Northwestern fell behind by 21 at the break and couldn’t climb back into the game.

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An 0-for-12 start from the field quickly stymied Northwestern’s hopes of upsetting No. 10 Maryland on the road as the Wildcats fell 72-57.

The Wildcats (14-9, 7-5) ran into a scorching-hot Terrapins (21-2, 10-2) team that earned its sixth straight win and took sole possession of first place in the Big Ten. Maryland scored 10 of the game’s first 12 points, jumping out to a 22-8 lead after one quarter.

Maryland’s Sara Vujacic scored 10 first-half points, including two three-pointers, to help give the Terrapins a 21-point advantage at the break. Maryland was able to stretch the floor effectively, shooting 6-of-10 on threes in the first half. Northwestern’s offensive struggles persisted early on — the Wildcats made as many free throws (six) as they did field goals in the game’s first 20 minutes.

Forward Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah struggled mightily, failing to convert a field goal attempt as all five of the senior’s points came at the free throw line. Lindsey Pulliam poured in 18 points, but it took the Silver Spring, Md. native 22 shots to do so. The bright spot offensively for the Wildcats was Abi Scheid. In her second game back from injury, the junior shot 6-of-12 from the field and scored 16 points.

The Wildcats rebounded to shoot 15-of-28 in the second half and outscore Maryland 37-31, but the damage was already done.

Northwestern missed out on a resume-building opportunity with last night’s road loss, but the Wildcats have one-third of their conference schedule remaining to make a statement. Unfortunately, NU’s three biggest games are on the road. The Wildcats had won three straight road matchups before Thursday’s loss, and Sunday’s trip to Minnesota now becomes a must-win game for NU.

The Wildcats and the Golden Gophers will tip off at 1 p.m. CT on BTN.