After dropping its last two games, No. 22 Northwestern (5-2, 3-2 B1G) looked the dominant team of its first four games in a 80-55 blowout of Wisconsin (3-4, 0-5 B1G).
The ‘Cats impressed with a balanced offensive attack, with four players scoring in double figures, including Courtney Shaw boasting a career-high 15 points. Veronica Burton also looked stellar after struggling in the previous two games, highlighted by an impressive stat-line of 15 points, nine rebounds and four steals.
As is typical of Joe McKeown’s team, the Wildcats dominated on the defensive end, notching 17 steals and four blocks to go along with a solid shooting performance—finishing 50% from the field and 7-for-16 from three—after struggling from the field against Michigan. The ‘Cats completely shut down the Badgers’ best scorers, holding Julia Pospisilova, who scored 28 point last time out against Minnesota, to five points and Sydney Hilliard (20.7 PPG) to seven points.
Northwestern came out of the gates with an approach very different from its first quarter against Michigan. Instead of settling for long-distance shots, the ‘Cats opted in favor of drive-and-kicks to the perimeter or dump downs to Courtney Shaw inside. After Pulliam hit two of her first three and Shaw drew two early and-ones, the ‘Cats finished the first quarter shooting 2-for-11 from the field and held a 16-13 lead entering the second period.
On defense, the ‘Cats unleashed their full-court press, eager to trap the Badgers’ guards whenever they put the ball on the floor, leading to two steals and fast-break points early in the game. However, when Wisconsin was able to break said press, they found success swinging the ball around in the halfcourt, as they hit three first-quarter triples to stay within striking distance of the ‘Cats.
Pulliam got hot to start the second quarter, hitting an and-one, a smooth elbow jumper and a contested corner three to extend the ‘Cats lead to 10 halfway through the second. The Badgers backcourt continued to be sloppy with the ball, finishing the first half with 10 turnovers, all steals by Northwestern. NU capitalized, pushing the ball up the floor for 13 points off turnovers in the first two quarters.
After an impressive offensive rebound and put-back by Courtney Shaw and a deep step-back three from Veronica Burton, the momentum shifted totally toward the Wildcats, as they outscored the Badgers 32-12 in the quarter, including a 9-0 run to finish the half. Shooting an impressive 54.1% from the field and 4-of-8 from three, Northwestern led 48-25 at the break.
Though struggling offensively to start the second half — shooting 1-of-7 from the field and recording a near four-minute scoring drought — NU’s defensive intensity allowed them to maintain a comfortable lead over the Badgers, whose continued offensive woes prevented them from making a dent in the 20-point deficit.
The ‘Cats held serve the rest of the way, which was all that was needed given the massive lead their dominant second quarter of play had given them.
No player on the Wisconsin roster could get it going against Northwestern’s stellar defense, as all Badgers’ players were held under double-digit point totals.
Northwestern next takes the court Saturday against Iowa (7-1, 4-1 B1G) in a clash of two of the Big Ten’s top teams.