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Rapid Reaction: Wildcats flatten Eastern Kentucky 79-50 in strong defensive outing

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Despite below-average shooting, the ‘Cats took care of business.

EVANSTON, Ill. — Despite a somewhat shaky shooting performance, Northwestern (4-0, 1-0 B1G) took an early lead six seconds in and never looked back, downing the Eastern Kentucky Colonels (3-3, 2-0 OVC) 79-50.

Veronica Burton led the way for the ‘Cats, putting up 17 points, three assists, three rebounds and two steals. Lindsey Pulliam and Sydney Wood followed close behind with 15 and 13 points, respectively, while combining for eight steals.

Even on a cold day shooting, in which the Wildcats shot just 39.7% from the field and 19% from three, NU still dominated defensively. The Colonels struggled to break down the blizzard throughout the game as Northwestern was able to force 33 turnovers, which turned into 41 points. Additionally, four players recorded three or more steals for the ‘Cats.

Northwestern started slow offensively, specifically from three and from the free-throw line. In the first quarter, NU shot just 2-of-9 (22%) from three and 4-of-10 (40%) from the charity stripe, which didn’t improve much in the second quarter. The Wildcats jumped out to an early lead, but the Colonels continued to fight back and cut the lead to two midway through the fits frame. However, an 8-0 run to finish the quarter led by Pulliam gave NU a 26-14 lead after one.

Northwestern continued to grow its lead in the second quarter. Another sizable 12-0 run to end the half, aided by seven Wood fast break points, allowed NU to take a 27-point advantage at the break.

With five minutes left in the first half, the Wildcats were shooting 9% worse than the Colonels yet led by 15, due in large part to having attempted 25 more shots than EKU. Offensive rebounds and forced turnovers created said difference. Northwestern used a three-quarter court press to force 20 first-half Colonel turnovers, while the ‘Cats gave up just four. These turnovers resulted in 25 points off of turnovers, while Eastern Kentucky had scored just 20 total points. NU also recorded a whopping 18 offensive rebounds in the first 20 minutes.

Northwestern remained cold to start the second half yet still managed to stretch their lead to 30 before a mid-range jumper by the Colonels’ Bria Bass with 7:46 left in the third quarter broke a 10-minute cold streak from the field for EKU. Back-to-back threes by Bass and Kendall Wingler cut NU’s lead down to 25, but the Wildcats regained control from there.

As the fourth quarter began, Northwestern transitioned to a bigger lineup. Freshmen Anna Morris and Paige Mott saw time on the floor, creating even more second-chance opportunities with their rebounding ability. Early in the fourth, Joe McKeown replaced his starters, and the bench held up the 29-point margin of victory.

Northwestern will have the next week off before resuming play on New Year’s Eve at 1:00 p.m. CT against Nebraska (3-2, 1-1 B1G).