Tonight, the Wildcats proved that no matter the obstacles in front of them, they will find a way to earn a win when they need one.
No. 19 Northwestern women’s basketball (21-3, 11-2 B1G) out-muscled the Michigan Wolverines (16-8, 7-6 B1G) 66-60 in a grueling physical battle, extending their win streak to four and reclaiming the second spot in the Big Ten despite turning it over a season-high 19 times and committing a whopping 17 fouls.
Northwestern’s victory was truly a team effort, with four starters finishing in double figures. Abi Scheid connected on three triples and Sydney Wood shot a perfect 4-for-4 from the field and 6-for-6 from the charity stripe, tallying 12 points in the second half to tie her career high and lead the Wildcats to a crucial road victory. Both had 14.
Meanwhile, Veronica Burton and Abbie Wolf each added 13, with the former battling through first half foul trouble to create offense whenever the ‘Cats needed it down the stretch and the latter adding seven boards and three blocks to some crucial post buckets
Lindsey Pulliam had an uncharacteristically rough night, finishing with just four points on 1-of-10 shooting. However, she did add seven crucial rebounds and was a key defensive presence.
The two teams battled tough in the first quarter. They traded baskets to start the game until Michigan’s leading scorer Naz Hillmon left the game less than three minutes in with an injury, forcing the Wolverines to rely on their bench for the remainder of the quarter. Following the injury, Northwestern came up with two consecutive three-point trips (from Scheid and Burton, who got hers the old-fashioned way) to earn its first lead of the game.
Michigan then went on a 6-0 run to take a five-point lead with under a minute to play. However, Northwestern scored two buckets with under 30 seconds left in the quarter to cut the Michigan lead to 19-18 at the end of the first.
The Wolverines quickly put an end to Northwestern’s momentum, starting the second quarter with a 7-0 run to take a 26-18 lead and force a Joe McKeown timeout at the 6:30 mark. Hillmon rejoined the action and made her presence known with six points in the frame.
In the final minutes of the half, Northwestern’s bench stepped up to help close the gap with all three starting Wildcat backcourt members plus Jordan Hamilton sidelined with two fouls. Two Byrdy Galernik layups and a beautiful Lauryn Satterwhite assist on a Courtney Shaw finish cut the lead to two before the final possession of the half. Michigan’s Hailey Brown, who led all scorers with nine points in the opening frame, nailed a three in the dying seconds to extend the lead to 35-30 at the break.
Wood single-handedly kept her team in the game early in the second half. The sophomore guard scored eight points in the first five minutes of the quarter and seemed to be the only Wildcat who kept composure as the turnovers and missed shots started to get out of hand. On the defensive end, she combined with Burton to lead her team in shutting down the Wolverines for three minutes, allowing the ‘Cats to cut the lead to one.
A few plays later, Scheid heated up at just the right time to complete with an and-one layup and a three pointer to give Northwestern the 46-43 lead, its first since halfway through the first quarter. NU finally looked like itself again to end the quarter, forcing eight turnovers and firing on all cylinders. Heading into the fourth, Northwestern led 55-49 — its largest lead all game.
Slowly, the Wolverines chipped away at the lead. Akienreh Johnson led the surge before becoming the third Wolverine to exit the game due to injury (all returned, though Hillmon did exit again, missing the last 14 minutes). She soon returned to hit a free throw and cut the Northwestern lead to 59-57.
With under three minutes to play, Brown tied it up at 60 with her third three of the night, but Burton responded with an NBA-range triple just seconds later to regain the lead. After some crucial stops, Northwestern had the ball and the chance to ice the game with under a minute remaining but another turnover gave Michigan the chance to tie with 20 seconds to play.
However, a missed deep corner three from Michelle Sidor and then a pair of free throws from Wood, who entered the day at 55 percent from the line, sealed things.
For the Wolverines, Johnson led the way with 15 points. Brown and Amy Dilk posted 12 apiece, and Hillmon finished with eight in limited action. Michigan, who played just as sloppily as the ‘Cats, committed 18 fouls and 18 turnovers on the day.
With the win, their first at the Crisler Center since 2016, Northwestern took down its toughest obstacle to a clean finish and at least a share of the Big Ten title, though plenty of dangerous foes remain. The ‘Cats will face off against current NCAA Tournament bubble team Nebraska on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. CST at Welsh-Ryan Arena.