Using a killer run to open the fourth quarter and the relentless shooting of Lindsey Pulliam, Northwestern women’s basketball (24-3, 14-2 Big Ten) pushed their winning streak to seven with a 16-point win on Saturday morning in Madison.
Pulliam finished with 28 points, six rebounds, and five assists thanks to a remarkable 13-20 performance from the field (2-2 from three), not taking a single trip to the free throw line for the first time this season.
Veronica Burton added 15, five boards, and five helpers, combining with Pulliam to amass a 40-point triple double for the second straight game. Abi Scheid chipped in 13 and a team-high nine rebounds (all defensive), while Sydney Wood put up 12 on 6-7 shooting, also racking up seven boards and four assists.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats reached both 24 wins and 14 conference wins for the first time since the 1989-90 season, the only other Big Ten Championship in program history.
Northwestern started lethargically, shooting just 35 percent and allowing the Badgers 12 points in the paint during a back-and-forth first quarter. And even as the offense got hot over the course of the second quarter, Wisconsin kept pace, never letting the ‘Cats stretch their lead beyond five points even as Pulliam heated up.
NU’s dynamic backcourt duo were the only two players to amass double digits in the first half. After the full-game 43-point showing from Burton and Pulliam, the pair is up to a ridiculous average of 38.9 combined points per outing over Northwestern’s past nine contests.
In the third quarter, where the ‘Cats have absolutely dominated of late, Wisconsin still refused to go away on the offensive end, hanging on to Northwestern’s coattails by the skin of their teeth thanks to five different scorers during the frame. Abbie Wolf and Pulliam combined for 14, and NU had opened up a 58-51 lead, but things were still slightly uneasy.
Then came the fourth quarter explosion. After an early bucket from Wisconsin big Abby Laszewski, Pulliam drilled a long turnaround two, nailed Wood on a beautiful high-low pass for an easy layup, and then swished a long three off the catch from Burton in quick succession to spearhead a 16-0 run that lasted only a hair over three minutes.
The ‘Cats forced three turnovers over the phenomenal stretch, turning them into seven points. The lineup of Scheid, Burton, Pulliam, Wood, and Jordan Hamilton each contributed significantly, with Northwestern’s small-ball five once again making their presence felt at a crucial juncture (each finished with a plus-minus of 13 or higher; no other Wildcat was above +1).
From there, NU cruised. What had looked to all the world like a full-game grind had suddenly turned into an easy victory. Eventually, the subs came in, with even walk-on Brooke Pikiell seeing her first action of Big Ten play.
Wisconsin had three double-digit scorers. Laszewski led the way with 14 and three blocks, while forward Imani Lewis threw up a 12 point, 11 rebound double-double. Senior Kendra Van Leeuwen made the most of her Senior Day (though the Wildcats ultimately ruined it) with 10 points and a game-high five steals.
Northwestern outshot the Badgers 51 percent to 39 percent, nailing 29 of their 52 post-first quarter field goals. It is the fifth time in the past six games that the newly dominant Wildcat offense has broken the 80-point plateau.
Next up, NU travels to Columbus on Tuesday night for a huge matchup with the surging Buckeyes in the penultimate game of the regular season.