Northwestern women’s basketball is officially on the national radar.
In a game with especially high stakes, Veronica Burton and the Wildcats (15-2, 5-1 B1G) fought back from a late double digit deficit to take down No. 15 Indiana (14-4, 4-2 B1G) 71-69 in overtime at Assembly Hall, establishing themselves as the team to beat in the Big Ten. The win earned the ‘Cats the best record in the conference and a near-guaranteed spot in the top-25 next week with their second win over a ranked conference opponent.
Northwestern’s post players largely led the way, and kept the team in the game when their guards struggled. Coming off a season-high 24 point performance against Purdue, Abi Scheid kept her hot streak going and finished with 16 points on 7-10 shooting (plus seven boards and four steals), including a crucial three late in overtime. The senior is now just two points away from 1000 for her career. Abbie Wolf battled throughout the game as well, charting 13 points and 9 rebounds before fouling out.
Meanwhile, Burton posted one of her best games this season, establishing herself as a player to watch on the national level with especially dynamic playmaking on both ends of the court. She finished with 15 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 steals, 9-of-10 shooting from the charity stripe and two game-deciding plays at the end of regulation and overtime.
Northwestern jumped out to another outstanding start, similarly to what happened against Maryland. The Wildcats earned an early 11-2 lead behind five quick points from Pulliam. They picked apart the Indiana defense with solid shooting and ball movement while simultaneously shutting down the Hoosiers on the other end of the court.
After a three-minute scoring drought midway through the quarter, star freshman post Mackenzie Holmes found an offensive spark for IU and cut the NU lead to four. Northwestern surged back and continued to attack Indiana’s defense, extending its lead to 17-11 at the end of the first.
However, the ‘Cats’ lead and momentum would not hold for long: the second quarter was all Indiana. After a lot of missed shots from both sides early on, the Hoosiers heated up to find a mid-quarter 11-0 run and take its first lead of the game, an advantage they would not relinquish until the extra session.
Northwestern did not find its first field goal of the quarter until the final three minutes. While the Wildcats were eventually able to end the five-minute scoring drought, Indiana maintained its momentum and extended its lead to 31-24 at the half, outscoring Northwestern 20-7 in the quarter.
Early in the second half, NU was relentless in fighting back whenever Indiana extended its lead. Wolf came out strong, hitting two early buckets to cut Indiana’s lead to five. When the Hoosiers found a few buckets in response, Scheid put an end to it, hitting a crucial three in the midst of a terrible 23% three-point shooting performance for the ‘Cats.
The two teams continued to battle throughout the quarter, and Northwestern managed to stay in it, despite Indiana’s continued offensive success and a completely silent Pulliam. However, heading into the fourth quarter the IU lead was ten and the game started to seem out of reach.
Pulliam finally seemed to get something going at the start of the fourth quarter, hitting a few big shots and creating plays for her teammates to help Northwestern chip away at the Indiana lead. The Hoosiers had stemmed multiple nascent runs and extended the advantage to 12, but back-to-back turnovers and a quick Northwestern run cut it back to six. Just like that, the Wildcats were back in it and the momentum was all theirs.
The NU defense absolutely suffocated the Hoosiers down the stretch, allowing them just five points in the final 7:22 of regulation. Slowly, they crawled to within three with f40 seconds to play, behind a pair of big shots from Wolf that came just before the center fouled out and then a massive back-cut and layup from Sydney Wood.
A broken play on Indiana’s ensuing possession resulted in a brawl for the loose ball. Northwestern came away with it, which led to a Veronica Burton breakaway on which she was fouled, resulting in a shocking three-point play that tied the game at 62 with 28.5 seconds to go.
Indiana held for the final shot, but solid defense from NU forced an off-balance miss from Holmes, sending the game to overtime.
Northwestern took the early lead in the extra session, but the Hoosiers surged back. A three-point play from Holmes was a huge momentum shifter and extended the Indiana lead to four. But immediately, Scheid hit another huge three with a minute to play and cut the lead to one.
Just seconds later, Burton found another crucial steal, leading to a fast break and a foul on the shot. She converted on her two free throws to give Northwestern back the lead with under a minute to go, closing out another remarkable comeback.
In the final 15 seconds of play, Northwestern had the fate of the game in its own hands with the one-point lead after a miss from Grace Berger. Indiana was forced to foul, sending Pulliam to the line, who went 1-2. Northwestern held a two-point lead with 12 seconds remaining, but the ball in Hoosier hands.
But a massive Jordan Hamilton steal, Indiana’s 21st turnover of the night, sealed the impressive upset, closing out a truly phenomenal team win.
Indiana successfully shut down Lindsey Pulliam for most of the game, despite her averaging 28 points per contest against the Hoosiers coming into the matchup. However, Northwestern’s star still managed to contribute 12 points and create crucial scoring opportunities for her teammates down the stretch. Meanwhile, Wood added seven crucial points and four steals, while Courtney Shaw poured in eight points off the bench.
Ali Patberg, Grace Berger and Mackenzie Holmes all put up double figures for the 15th-ranked Hoosiers, finishing with 12, 16 and 22, respectively — tying a season high for Holmes, who also had nine rebounds and led the way all game long for IU off the bench.
Northwestern will take on conference bottom-feeder Penn State at home on Sunday at 2 p.m. CST, hoping to secure both their first ranking since 2016 and some well-deserved national recognition.