After a first half in which Penn State consistently made tough shots and got easy transition buckets, it looked like Northwestern women’s basketball might be back to their old struggles against the Nittany Lions.
But the Wildcats (19-3, 9-2 Big Ten) ripped off a 29-7 third quarter to pave the way for their first win at the Bryce Jordan Center since January of 1997, and, thanks to Michigan’s win over Iowa, a share of the conference lead.
Veronica Burton scored 19 points and added seven assists and six rebounds to lead the way for Northwestern, while Lindsey Pulliam overcame a slow start to drop in 19 of her own plus seven boards. Abbie Wolf used an 11 point first half to finish with 15, four assists, and six rebounds.
Meanwhile, after a first half in which she only attempted one shot, Abi Scheid exploded in the third, finishing with 13 on 5-6 shooting and compiling a total of 37 points in Northwestern’s two wins this season against hapless Penn State (7-15, 1-10), going 13-15 from the field and 9-9 (!) from beyond the arc to do so. The sharpshooter has now made 17 of her last 21 threes and is over 50 percent on the season from distance, making her the best three point shooter in the country (min. 40 attempts).
The Wildcats got out to an early 8-4 lead, but uncharacteristic turnovers and Nittany Lion run-outs swung things the other way. A 15-5 run from PSU gave them their largest lead of the night at 19-13 before NU closed the first quarter with back to back buckets.
In the second frame, the pace remained at a high level, and the teams traded baskets with regularity. Northwestern’s defense was hardly slowing down Kamaria McDaniel and the Nittany Lions, who put together another 19-point quarter thanks largely to some ridiculous shots from Siyeh Frazier and Makenna Marisa, along with good penetration from McDaniel. The three finished with 15, 12, and 16 points respectively.
But after the break, the Wildcats came out like a house on fire. After a slightly slow start, Burton buried two threes around her own fast break layup and a pair of buckets from Scheid, with three assists in the span coming from Sydney Wood.
Burton’s second triple, from well beyond the arc, was followed by Scheid nailing one from even deeper. Then, Pulliam got going, following a trip to the line with a midrange jumper and capping off a 17-0 run that took only 4:27 with her first three of the afternoon.
Scheid capped off the quarter by cementing her third perfect outing in five games from beyond the arc with another triple, and suddenly the Wildcats had turned a 38-37 halftime deficit into a 66-45 lead.
With the game already decided and Penn State still reeling, the fourth quarter mostly consisted of sloppy play, though when the reserves did get in at the end, Jess Sancataldo, who returned from the injury that forced her to miss the first two months of the year on January 5th, managed to earn her first points of the season with a perfect trip to the line.
Meanwhile, thanks to Naz Hillmon’s 30 point, 10 rebound performance, Michigan secured a crucial home win over Iowa, putting Northwestern back into a tie atop the conference. With the Hawkeyes still having to face Maryland again this year, the Wildcats look to be in pretty good shape as of right now to potentially achieve one of their preseason goals and earn a Big Ten title.
Northwestern will be idle for a week before taking on Michigan State next Monday at Welsh-Ryan Arena.