EVANSTON, Illinois — After dropping two close games in the past week, No. 24 Northwestern (12-5, 10-5 B1G) got a much-needed 67-54 win over Wisconsin (5-15, 2-15 B1G) on Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats dominated the game from the tip, opening up a 10 point lead in the first quarter and never looking back.
For Northwestern, the three-headed monster of Lindsey Pulliam (14 points), Sydney Wood (14 points) and Veronica Burton (13 points) provided most of the scoring while Burton also added an impressive nine assists. Although shooting only 2-for-13 from deep, the Wildcats were able to shoot a respectable 41% from the field. Free-throw shooting was the key for Northwestern hitting 19 of their 24 free throw attempts.
The ‘Cats scored the first four points of the game before the Badgers answered back with eight straight, including six from deep. Burton’s willingness to attack the paint early landed her at the line where she shot 4-for-4 in the first quarter.
After a strong shooting start, Wisconsin’s offense went cold, failing to score in the final 4:24 of the quarter. Northwestern’s suffocating defense forced eight first-quarter turnovers and six over the final 5:30 to end the first quarter on an 11-0 run.
NU spread the ball around in the first with six different players scoring baskets. Wood’s perfect 3-for-3 at the end of the frame gave her the quarter high with six points. The Wildcats led 21-11 after one.
Wisconsin continued to shoot well from deep to open the second quarter, with Estella Moschkau hitting her second triple of the game. Northwestern scored two points over the first 3:45 of the quarter and allowed Wisconsin to close the gap to seven before finding its rhythm again and extending the lead to 13 midway through the quarter.
Toward the end of the quarter, Lauryn Satterwhite finally connected from deep, after the ‘Cats missed eight straight three-pointers to start the game.
The lack of a primary ball handler hurt Wisconsin throughout the first half and led to 15 total turnovers.
After 20 minutes of play Wood led the Wildcats with eight points followed by six each from Pulliam and Burton. For the Badgers, Imani Lewis’ strong inside play led to seven points and three rebounds. Northwestern had a particularly strong half from inside the arc, shooting 65% and getting to the free throw line 10 times. After two the Wildcats led 37-20.
The Wildcat’s season-long third quarter struggles continued, and the Badgers opened the quarter with a 7-2 run. Wisconsin brought the score to within 12 on multiple occasions, but early foul trouble prevented it from truly making the game close as Northwestern entered the bonus just four minutes into the second half.
NU missed its first 10 field goal attempts of the quarter, not scoring from the field until the 4:19 mark where it hit back-to-back shots to extend the lead back to 14. Wood hit multiple shots down the stretch and had a game-high 14 points at the end of the quarter.
The Wildcats’ Blizzard defense forced five more turnovers in the third and helped Northwestern to a 53-39 lead after three quarters, despite only shooting 19% from the field in the third.
A sloppy fourth quarter began with four turnovers and only one made field goal over the first two minutes, but the Wildcats quickly cleaned things up. Three consecutive shots from Pulliam allowed the Wildcats to extend their lead to 17 with under four minutes to play.
The final few minutes was a back-and-forth affair, leading Joe McKeown to sit his starters for the final minute and a half of the game. Northwestern’s strong defense provided an additional six turnovers in the quarter and never gave the Badgers a chance to get back in this one.
Wisconsin’s Sydney Hilliard and Lewis led the way for the Badgers. Hilliard posted 15 points, five assists and four rebounds while Lewis scored 11 and added eight rebounds.
Northwestern will close out its regular season with two final matchups, making the trip to Champaign to face Illinois on Thursday before returning home to host No. 9 Maryland on Sunday.