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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern demolishes Eastern Illinois 93-57 in season opener

The Wildcats cruised to an easy victory.

EVANSTON, Illinois — After months of anticipation and unfinished business, Northwestern women’s basketball opened its 2020-21 campaign with a 93-57 win over Eastern Illinois.

All five starting Wildcats scored double-digit points in the matchup. Established stars Veronica Burton and Lindsey Pulliam led the way for NU with 21 and 18 points. Pulliam also added six rebounds, two assists and two steals while Burton charted six assists and five steals.

Courtney Shaw put up 13 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in her first game as a starter. Sydney Wood added 14 points, seven rebounds and five steals while Jordan Hamilton added 11 points.

EIU kept it close early, shooting 63% from the field in the first frame, including 67% from three, but an 8-0 run to end the quarter enabled the ‘Cats to pull away. Both Pulliam and Burton impressed early, as the All-American guard scored 11 while the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year scored eight with four assists and two steals to give NU a 27-16 lead after one.

The Blizzard defense came to play in the second frame, not allowing the Panthers to score for the first six minutes of the quarter and holding them to just six points on 15% shooting in the period. The Wildcats forced 16 EIU turnovers in the half, 10 of which occurred in the second quarter, leading to 24 first-half points.

The offense stretched the lead to 25 in the meantime thanks to the interior presence of Shaw, who finished the half shooting 6-for-7 with 13 points. The ‘Cats went into the locker room up 53-22 behind a 36-8 run to end the half.

The Wildcat offense slowed down in the third quarter, just outscoring the Panthers 13-12 while shooting only 5-of-16 from the field. Nonetheless, the defense still played well, forcing seven turnovers.

NU cruised through the fourth quarter with the game all but decided, extending its final margin of victory to 36 thanks to 32 points off 24 forced turnovers.

This game also saw the debuts of freshmen Paige Mott, Anna Morris, and Jasmine McWilliams, as well as cameos from Laya Hartman and Brooke Pikiell.

The Wildcats will begin Big Ten play on Monday at home against the Minnesota Golden Gophers (1-2) at 8 p.m. CST.