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Rapid Reaction: No. 22 Northwestern soars past Penn State 67-50

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Sunday matinee basketball is the best.

After over a week off, Northwestern (7-2, 5-2 B1G) emerged from Happy Valley with another dominant victory over a conference bottom-feeder, beating Penn State (4-6, 1-5) 67-50.

Veronica Burton led the Wildcats with 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Lindsey Pulliam and Sydney Wood contributed 17 and 13 points, though it took senior captain 23 shots to find those points. She also added eight boards while Courtney Shaw had 12, including six on the offensive end.

The matchup was turnover heavy, as Northwestern lost possession a season-high 22 times. However, NU also forced 27 turnovers from the Lady Lions behind Burton and Jordan Hamilton who recorded five steals each. Northwestern converted Penn State’s miscues into 24 points whereas the Nittany Lions only converted the Wildcats’ into 12.

Both teams opened the game sloppily. They traded missed buckets and turnovers, combining for nine turnovers and just 10 points at the first media timeout. Northwestern’s defense was dominant as ever, holding the Lions to 10 points and forcing 11 turnovers in the first, but the offense handed it over nine times as well. Pulliam had a tough, scoreless quarter on 0-of-6 shooting, but the Wildcats led 14-10 behind eight early points from Burton.

After a sluggish start to the second quarter, Sydney Wood converted an and-one, and Kayla Rainey scored on a fast break to put the ‘Cats up 21-12 midway through the quarter. Penn State struggled to get anything to go, hitting just one of their first 11 shots of the quarter.

The Wildcats ended the half on a 9-0 run, allowing them to take a 32-18 advantage at the break. Their defense held strong again, holding Penn State to just 18 points on 5-of-21 shooting and forcing 18 first-half turnovers.

Northwestern picked up where it left off in the second half, extending its run to 13-0 and forcing a Penn State timeout. Burton and Hamilton then combined for four steals that led to another quick 7-0 run. However, Northwestern hit a bit of a cold streak, and Penn State answered back with an 8-0 run of its own featuring back-to-back threes that cut the Wildcat lead to 14. NU led by 15 at the end of the third.

The teams traded buckets to begin the fourth quarter. Penn State forward Johnasia Cash stayed aggressive, scoring five points early, as Shaw earned her third and fourth fouls. The Lady Lions managed to cut the NU lead to 15, but their late-game efforts were not enough as Northwestern’s defense closed out another decisive conference victory.

Penn State’s Makenna Marisa had a strong outing, scoring 12 points but also turning the ball over five times. Cash added 14 points and eight rebounds.

Northwestern’s next game is Thursday when the Illini (2-6, 0-2 B1G) travel to Evanston for their first game in over a week.