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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern defeats No. 22 Iowa 77-69 in star guard showdown

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Welcome back, ‘Cats.

In a battle between two of the best guards in the country, Northwestern (10-3, 2-0 B1G) took down No. 22 Iowa (7-4, 1-1 B1G), 77-69, behind a monstrous offensive and defensive performance from Veronica Burton and a strong supporting scoring effort from Melannie Daley.

The senior point guard scored 25 points while adding six rebounds, six assists, and a whopping eight steals to lead her team to victory over the ranked Hawkeyes, all while largely locking up arguably the best scorer in the Big Ten in Caitlyn Clark in the final quarter.

The upset win also served as a breakout game for the first-year guard Daley, who scored 22 points of her own on 9-of-16 shooting.

The Wildcats started the game out strong, forcing an early turnover that led to a three from first-year Caileigh Walsh. Northwestern took an early 7-2 lead behind consecutive baseline jumpers from Daley, who would later add two more from the same area. After allowing the initial scoring burst, Iowa’s defense pulled it back within reach, and four free throws from Caitlin Clark tied the scoring at 11.

While there seemingly wasn’t any rust from Northwestern in the jump shot game, the interior defense certainly showed signs of trouble early. Forward Monika Czinano continuously was able to body Northwestern’s bigs in the paint, scoring six early.

Daley, who averaged just seven points per game heading into the contest, paced the ‘Cats with 10 in just the first quarter, none of which were within 10 feet of the basket. Northwestern appeared primed to hold an 18-17 lead at the end of the first until Clark found Gabbie Marshall in transition all alone behind the arc. Marshall knocked down the three-pointer at the buzzer to give her team a 20-18 lead.

Iowa began the second period on a 5-0 run behind four missed Northwestern shots before Lauryn Satterwhite broke the run with a free throw. Veronica Burton hit an open three to score the team’s first field goal of the quarter. The shot took a journey off the rim and backboard before falling to pull Northwestern within three.

The Wildcats were able to hold Iowa to a mid-quarter drought on partial account of some of the 11 first half turnovers they forced, but were unable to capitalize, missing several looks from three. The ‘Cats shot just 25 percent from deep in the first 20 minutes of play and failed to utilize Daley in the second quarter as much as they did (to their own offensive detriment).

A bit of a strange sequence happened toward the end the half, as Northwestern was issued a technical foul when Anna Morris entered the game, supposedly because Morris wearing a jersey number that was not registered with the officials. This allowed Clark to shoot two free throws to put Iowa up by seven. The foul was quickly answered by a jumper from Daley, then a three pointer from Burton. Two key offensive rebounds by Courtney Shaw allowed Northwestern to hold the ball for the final shot of the half, and Burton was fouled while shooting in the final second. In hitting both free throws, Burton brought her half total to 13 points and cut Iowa’s halftime lead to a two-point margin at 36-34.

Walsh found a cutting Jillian Brown to tie the game at 36 to start the second half, but the bucket was answered by Czinano. After the Iowa forward picked up her third foul, Walsh fired and hit a three to give Northwestern its first lead since the waning seconds of the first quarter. Buckets by Daley and Shaw gave the ‘Cats a 47-44 lead, powered by 6-of-9 shooting from the team in the quarter.

Northwestern and Iowa put on an absolute offensive clinic late in the third, with both teams refusing to miss. Daley hit a shot from the charity stripe that was answered by a three from Clark, then Burton scored five straight that Czinano was able to respond to with points of her own. Jillian Brown hit a three to put the ‘Cats up six, but a late-clock layup from the magical Clark made it just a four-point game heading into the final period of play.

Mott opened the scoring in the fourth with a runner to put Northwestern up six. After a three from Iowa’s McKenna Warnock, Shaw once again used her paint dominance to get yet another basket in the post. With several Hawkeyes in foul trouble, Shaw’s emergence over the course of the game became a necessity to a Wildcat victory. With just under five minutes to go in the game, Iowa called a timeout trailing the ‘Cats, 66-61.

Two possessions out of the timeout, Iowa’s Warnock drilled her fourth shot from deep to pull the Hawkeyes within two. After a questionable moving screen call on Mott, Czinano got a paint layup to complete Iowa’s comeback and a 7-0 run. On the ensuing Iowa possession, Burton picked off a pass with nothing but space in front of her for her seventh steal of the game, which she took coast-to-coast to retake the lead.

Following a missed Clark three, Burton was fouled while driving to the paint and made both free throws to give Northwestern the four-point lead with 40 seconds to go. With the Hawkeyes attempting to make it a one-score game, Burton stole a pass to Czinano down low and knocked down two more clutch free throws to put her team up by six. Four more free shots by Daley put the game out of reach and all but locked up a victory for the ‘Cats. Clark did not score in the fourth quarter until there were 17 seconds left, largely due to the defensive prowess of Burton.

The Wildcats will return to the Welsh-Ryan Arena on Sunday to take on Ohio State.