As Northwestern marched to a 3-0 start and their 12th straight regular season win dating back to last season, the night belonged to star point guard Veronica Burton. Leading on both ends of the court, the Backcourt Burglar notched a career high 27 points on 9-of-17 shooting and tallied five steals and three assists in the Wildcat’s third decisive win of the season.
Northwestern (3-0) used a strong first quarter and won the turnover battle decisively to dispatch Purdue (3-2) 70-54 on the road in West Lafayette on Thursday night.
The story of the game was ball security. The active hands of the Wildcats’ Blizzard defense forced 27 turnovers, which Joe McKeown’s squad converted into 29 points. NU turned it over 14 times, in comparison.
The guard trifecta of Sydney Wood (5-10 FG), Lindsey Pulliam (3-16 FG) and Jordan Hamilton (4-8 FG) rounded out the ‘Cats’ scoring with 11, 10 and 10 points respectively.
Burton started the game with a bang, scoring 12 of the Wildcats’ 22 points in the first quarter. Her vision and versatility was evident from the get-go, finishing shots both in the paint and beyond the arc. The Wildcats also took advantage of eight early turnovers from Purdue, only struggling to match up with the Boilermakers’ rebounding ability, as their opponents hauled in five offensive rebounds during the opening period.
The team got off to a shakier start in the second quarter, with Purdue connecting on their first four shots and making it a 25-21 game, forcing Northwestern to burn a timeout. In particular, Burton and Jordan Hamilton had difficulty getting the offense going against a high Purdue press. However, the slow start didn’t last long thanks to you-know-who.
A left handed layup by Burton resulted in a three-point-play and re-energized the ‘Cats with a little less than four minutes to go in the half. From there on out, NU’s offense added eight points before the clock expired and improved in the paint, finishing the quarter with 10 offensive boards. All in all, the Newton, Massachusetts native had already notched 20 points midway through the contest.
If her first half wasn’t enough, Burton began the second by tying her career-high 23 points with a difficult hands-in-the-face triple right as the shot clock expired. And, despite a slightly better shooting percentage, Purdue continued to struggle when the ‘Cats quickly pushed the ball down court off of defensive rebounds (usually thanks to Courtney Shaw, who finished with nine boards) and converted the opportunities into fast-break points.
Northwestern didn’t shoot well in the third frame, making just seven of 20 attempts, but Purdue couldn’t make up much ground, as they turned it over six times.
The Boilermakers then took advantage of three Wildcat turnovers in the first two-and-a-half minutes of the fourth and cut the NU lead to 12. Things never got closer than that, though. They used a 7-2 burst as Wood and Pulliam took control, helping the ‘Cats maintain a steady lead the rest of the way.
Fatou Diagne carried the load for Purdue with a near double-double, posting 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting and nine rebounds.
The Wildcats return home on Tuesday, December 22 to take on Eastern Kentucky at 1 p.m. CT in their second and final non-conference game this season.