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Northwestern women’s basketball player reviews: Lindsey Pulliam

Northwestern’s leading scorer had a superb season, but it can still be topped in her final year.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Iowa vs Northwestern Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into the year, hopes for Northwestern as a whole were on the rise, but no individual had higher expectations than Lindsey Pulliam, who was projected to carry NU on the offensive end. The junior delivered, leading the ‘Cats in scoring by nearly 200 points, though she took nearly two times as many shots as the next-highest volume shooter the team had.

Nonetheless, she was a rock for Joe McKeown’s squad, scoring in bunches and nailing big shots on a nightly basis. The season was undoubtedly a success for Pulliam, and it was a massive amount of fun to watch her campaign unfold. Her efforts earned her unanimous All-Big Ten first team recognition and even led to her becoming an honorable mention All-American.

Let’s take a look at the sharpshooter’s campaign.

Stats

The following statistics were taken from HerHoopstats.com:

The first number that stands out is Pulliam’s 34 minutes per game, which shows her importance to the squad. She started in each of Northwestern’s 30 games and only averaged fewer minutes than Abi Scheid. This is an entirely different team without Pulliam, and McKeown knew that, taking her out sparingly. She did a good job of keeping herself on the court as well, rarely getting in foul trouble, as her 1.8 fouls per game indicates.

Pulliam is a volume scorer, and her 18.8 ppg (good for 36th in the country) showed that. She didn’t facilitate for others to a great extent, only averaging 2.3 assists per contest, but that wasn’t her role, so a higher total in that category merely would’ve been a bonus.

Shot Distribution

A deeper look into the metrics behind Pulliam’s scoring shows that she wasn’t the most efficient scorer, but that wasn’t the worst thing for this NU team. She was 36th in the country in field goals made, though her effective field goal percentage was only 42.6 percent due to the high volume of two-point shots she attempted. Pulliam was 11th in the nation in that metric.

On the other hand, Pulliam was remarkably effective from beyond the arc, canning 35 percent of her looks as compared to a woeful 18 percent a year ago. This helped her to a five percent increase in EFG, something that she can continue to improve upon as her shot selection, hopefully, adjusts to her improvement from beyond the arc.

Meanwhile, she excelled as per usual at getting to the free throw line. Pulliam ranked 57th in the country in free throw trips, and when there she converted at a 73 percent clip. The scorer is far from the most efficient on the offensive end, but this season’s improvements along with her consistent volume scoring took her to the next level.

The Good

At the end of the day, Northwestern could count on Pulliam to get the job done on the offensive end. As expected from the primary scorer on the team, she provided a willingness to shoot the ball and do what was asked of her. The result was All-Big Ten recognition and plenty of chances for us to watch her patented pull-up jumper in huge spots.

Defensively, Pulliam contributed importantly to a Blizzard look that frustrated opponents all year, and though she wasn’t a focal point on the defensive end, she wasn’t a liability, registering steals and doing her part.

She may not be a natural defender à la Veronica Burton or Sydney Wood, but she has honed her defensive instincts quite well and uses every bit of her limited athleticism to her advantage. Meanwhile, she has become one of the better defensive rebounders for her size in the conference, a skill that was crucial this season and may grow even more important as the Wildcats lose plenty of size to graduation.

All season long, Pulliam did exactly what her team needed from and asked of her, and it helped Northwestern immensely en route to a Big Ten Championship and national contender status.

The Bad

In the grand scheme of things, it’s hard to nitpick what Pulliam did this year, but her shot selection could be a bit better. To raise her effective field goal percentage she needs to be shooting a significant number of her longer two-point attempts from three-point range, a move that would pay big dividends for her game.

Another smaller but vital improvement would include her free throw percentage, but outside of that, it’s hard to get on Pulliam too much.

Offseason Focus

As noted above, a big focus during this elongated break will be figuring out how Pulliam can take more three-pointers, and convert at a slightly higher clip. If she was able to do so, she’d become one of the most lethal players in the country, and Northwestern might need it with the loss of Scheid and Abbie Wolf.

Limiting her streakiness would also be a crucial improvement. When Pulliam goes cold, the Wildcats are in trouble, and they will be in even more danger in such situations with the offense they lose to graduation. Not forcing shots when she is struggling and finding a way to score even when nothing is falling in a more consistent manner would both be vital improvements that can be driven by the ferocious offseason work that the driven scorer is known for.

The Bottom Line

Despite all of the achievements that Pulliam racked up this past year, she’ll have a chance to top it next year with even more on her plate when it comes to the scoring load. Losing the best three-point shooter in the country will force Pulliam to shoot more from beyond the arc, and if she is able to mold her game in that manner while maintaining her ability to expend consistent effort on defense and score in the clutch, she’ll be a force in her final campaign.