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Rapid Reaction: Plagued by long stretches of offensive dormancy, Northwestern falls to Minnesota 74-68

Another insane performance from Veronica Burton squandered.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Despite strong play from their best player on the offensive end, the Northwestern Wildcats (13-9, 5-6 B1G) fell on the road, 74-68 in their rescheduled bout against the Minnesota Golden Gophers (12-14, 4-9 B1G).

Veronica Burton led the way for the Wildcats, posting an absurd 27 points, seven assists, four rebounds, four blocks and four steals by the game’s conclusion. Courtney Shaw added 13 points and nine rebounds. For Minnesota, it was a team effort all the way. Both Laura Bagwell Katalinich and Gadiva Hubbard finished with 19 points. Sara Scalia added 18 points of her own.

The Golden Gophers got ahead early, as a Hubbard three started the scoring off and a mid-range jumper for the hosts extended their initial lead to 5-0. The ‘Cats clawed back relatively quickly, though, with Jillian Brown sinking a layup to give the team its first points of the game and Burton collecting her first steal of the day and taking it to the rim to make it a 5-4 affair.

After the teams traded a pair of buckets that left the score at 8-6, Minnesota went on another run, sparked again by Hubbard’s long-range shooting. The graduate student nailed two consecutive threes, and a Kadi Sissoko layup made the made it an 8-0 run for the Gophers. Melannie Daley ended the run with a mid-range jumper, scoring NU’s first points in nearly four minutes, but a pair of made free throws from the Gophers left the score at 18-8 at the end of the first quarter.

As the second period of play began, the Wildcats’ shooting woes persisted. Joe McKeown’s team made just one of their first nine second quarter attempts from the floor. Meanwhile, the hosts fared only slightly better, scoring six points in the quarter’s first four minutes, all off of Bagwell Katalinich mid-rangers.

The ‘Cats experienced a switch about halfway through the quarter. Trailing 24-12 and shooting under 20 percent from the field, they turned to Shaw, who picked up six points over four shots in the span of less than two minutes. While a corresponding offensive pickup for the Golden Gophers meant that they still led by 10, Shaw’s rise opened up greater opportunities for Burton and Brown, who helped cut UMN’s lead to 34-27 at the end of the half.

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the progress they made towards the end of the first half was quickly erased at the start of the second. They failed to score in the first three minutes and 48 seconds of the third quarter, and unlike during their stretch of shooting futility to start the second quarter, the Golden Gophers took full advantage, scoring 11 points in that span to open up a 45-27 lead.

The ‘Cats spent the remainder of the third trying to get back within striking range. They spouted off a 7-0 run in the ensuing two-and-a-half minutes, fueled by one Burton mid-ranger, a Brown layup and Burton’s first make from three of the day. The progress would end there, though, as the Gophers largely traded buckets the rest of the quarter, leaving the score at 52-39 heading into the final 10 minutes of action.

Like much of the game, Burton led the NU offense as it put up its most points in a quarter of the night in the fourth, but the Wildcats were unable to sufficiently slow the Minnesota offense. The Backcourt Burglar contributed 13 of NU’s 29 points in the final period and added four assists, but the Golden Gophers hit 50 percent of their fourth quarter tries and scored 22 points to close out the win.

For their next game, Northwestern returns home to Welsh-Ryan Arena on Sunday to face No. 4 Michigan on Sunday at 11 a.m.