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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern falls to No. 16 Indiana 74-61

A fourth-quarter scoring drought was all it took for the Hoosiers to pull away.

EVANSTON, Illinois — In a rematch of last year’s turning-point win, No. 21 Northwestern (8-3, 6-3 B1G) fell to No. 16 Indiana (9-3, 7-1 B1G) 74-61 in a pivotal Big Ten matchup at home. Despite leading for much of the game, the Wildcats collapsed in the fourth quarter, as they were outscored by 19 in the final frame.

Veronica Burton and Lindsey Pulliam led the way for the Wildcats, as they posted a combined 29 points and 14 rebounds. Jordan Hamilton followed close behind with 13 points of her own while Sydney Wood added 12. With Courtney Shaw out due to injury, freshman Paige Mott contributed seven rebounds in her first career start. The Wildcats also capitalized on 12 Indiana turnovers, converting them to 17 points, but it wasn’t enough to secure the win.

MacKenzie Holmes dominated for the Hoosiers with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Grace Berger and Jaelynn Penn supported her with 14 and 10 points each.

Burton came out hot, as she picked up the first basket of the game with a left-handed layup and recorded a steal and a block all within the first minute and a half of play. Solid defense at the basket by Mott helped the ‘Cats pull out to an early 10-8 lead before the first media timeout.

Indiana came out strong after the break, though, with Berger and Kiandra Brown capitalizing on the absence of Shaw in the paint to tie the game at 12. However, the Wildcats came back and found themselves up 21-16 at the end of the first quarter, due in large part to a handful of baskets by both Burton and Pulliam.

Pulliam continued to shine in the second quarter, hitting an early jumper and two more free throws to add to her growing point total. Indiana clawed right back, however, as Holmes’ ability to beat the Blizzard defense at the basket pulled the Hoosiers within three points with about three minutes left in the half.

Northwestern briefly lost hold of their lead as two more Indiana layups as well as a jumper by Nicole Cardaño-Hillary found their way into the basket, but aggressive drives by both Burton and Wood put the ‘Cats back in front 36-33 at the break. Northwestern finished the half with a perfect free throw percentage and 13 points off of eight turnovers in comparison to Indiana’s zero points off of six turnovers.

The ‘Cats got off to a quick start to open the third. A solid team effort all around with points from four of five starters contributed to a 12-0 run that was primarily led by Hamilton, who posted five of said points herself. Wood, Burton and Pulliam all found themselves in double digits halfway through the quarter and the lead increased steadily to 13 points.

Indiana had trouble on offense, completing only 3-of-11 field goal attempts, one three-pointer and a handful of free throws, yet still managed to go on a 12-5 run to end the third. Meanwhile, the ‘Cats suffered from a five-minute field-goal drought to end the third but entered the final 10 minutes leading the Hoosiers 54-48.

Both teams traded points to open the fourth, but in an instant, a 6-0 run by Indiana and a three-pointer by Cardaño-Hillary tied the score at 56 with just over seven minutes to go. A bit of patience and a successful jumper from Berger eventually put the Hoosiers up by two before a timeout was called on the floor with just under five minutes to play.

Holmes drove to the basket, and an and-one paired with an additional jumper from Cardaño-Hillary put IU up nine points with three minutes to go. A pair of baskets by Jordan Hamilton was not enough to put the win back in reach, and the Wildcats fell to their second ranked Big Ten opponent of the season.

The ‘Cats embark on a short road trip to Iowa City on Thursday where they will face the unranked Hawkeyes at 6 p.m. CST.