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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern holds on for 74-69 win at Wisconsin

Multiple Wildcats excelled in the Kohl Center.

@NUWBball on Twitter.

It wasn’t easy, but Northwestern (7-9, 2-3 Big Ten) escaped with a 74-69 win on the road against Wisconsin (8-7, 1-4 B1G) — its second victory away from home all year.

Caileigh Walsh led the ‘Cats with 19 points, while Caroline Lau posted a double-double with team highs of 11 rebounds and six assists. Serah Williams led the Badgers with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Ronnie Porter paced the team with six assists and chipped in with 14 points of her own. Crucially, NU had just 10 turnovers after combining for 58 over its last two games.

Northwestern won the opening tip, and Walsh eventually opened up the scoring just over a minute later with a contested layup. The Badgers responded to take a 3-2 lead behind one free throw from Halle Douglass and two free throws from Williams. Williams hit a fadeaway jumper before Lau would get on the board with a layup. Porter drilled a three from the corner, and after another three from Douglass, Wisconsin was on a 6-0 run and held an 11-4 lead through half of the first quarter.

The ‘Cats fought back quickly with layups by Paige Mott and Melannie Daley, and after Casey Harter drilled a jumper, Northwestern had a 6-0 run of its own to cut the lead to just one point at the first media timeout. Maggie Pina came out of the timeout and nailed a three from the corner to reach 1,000 career points. Then, Daley drew a shooting foul and knocked down both free throws. After a rough start to the game, the ‘Cats led 15-11 with three minutes left in the first quarter.

Wisconsin stopped the bleeding with two free throws by Natalie Leuzinger, but Harter responded with a three to extend Northwestern’s lead to five points. Williams made a layup, but Daley responded with one of her own to keep the ‘Cats; lead at five points with under a minute left. Porter rattled off five consecutive points of her own at the end of the first quarter, and all of a sudden, Wisconsin and Northwestern were tied at 20 points apiece at the end of the quarter.

Mercy Ademusayo started the scoring in the second quarter with a layup to put Northwestern back on top. Williams responded with two free throws for the Badgers, before the two teams would combine for a two-minute scoring drought. D’Yanis Jimenez made a layup to give the Badgers their first lead since the middle of the first quarter, but a Hailey Weaver layup tied the game at 24-24. Walsh got back on the board by converting an and-one to give the ‘Cats a 27-24 lead with a little under six minutes left in the half.

Wisconsin’s Tessa Grady hit a jumper, but Walsh immediately answered, offering Northwestern a 29-26 advantage through half of the second quarter. Northwestern and Wisconsin went on to trade two baskets each out of the media timeout, and a layup by Weaver put the Northwestern lead at 35-30 with a little over three minutes left. Yet Grady responded with two consecutive three-pointers to reach double figures for the game. At the end of the first half, the Badgers held a 36-35 lead.

Early on in the second half, both teams struggled offensively. Porter made a layup but Walsh quickly responded with a three to tie the game at 38. After Williams made two free throws, Walsh hit two free throws of her own as the two teams continued to go back and forth. Pina knocked down a three, and after Northwestern got an extra possession because of a Wisconsin foul, Harter’s layup put Northwestern ahead 45-40. As the teams continued to seesaw, Wisconsin tied the game on a jumper by Douglass and an and-one by Williams.

With a little over four minutes left in the third quarter, Lau hit a three to give the ‘Cats the lead once again. Yet, Douglass made a layup to cut Northwestern’s lead to one, and the media timeout occurred as a result of a foul that put Paige Mott at the line with just over three minutes left. Mott sank both free throws before Sania Copeland hit a layup, but a layup by Lau would soon give the ‘Cats a 52-49 lead. Lau continued her strong third quarter performance with a triple, and a layup by Weaver put the ‘Cats on top 57-49, their largest lead of the night. Copeland beat the third-quarter buzzer with a three, but Northwestern still led 57-52 heading into the final frame.

Grady opened the quarter with another triple and followed that up with a free-throw line jumper, and suddenly, the Badgers tied the game at 57-57. Northwestern answered with a 6-0 run comprised of two Walsh free throws and two layups by Mott, but a couple of quick buckets by the Badgers cut the lead down to 63-61. After a Northwestern timeout, Williams converted an and-one to give Wisconsin a 64-63 lead. Walsh drilled a three, and Daley cashed in a layup off her own missed shot; the ‘Cats took a 68-64 lead into the final four minutes of the game.

Daley hit two free throws, and after Northwestern held Wisconsin to a three-minute scoring drought, the ‘Cats led by six with less than three minutes remaining. A free throw by Douglass and layup by Porter cut the lead down to 70-67 heading into the final two minutes of action. Mott put a lid on the game with a layup to put the ‘Cats up 72-67 with just under 30 seconds left, allowing Northwestern to claim its second conference victory this season.

Northwestern returns to action at home against Illinois on Sunday from Welsh-Ryan Arena, where play will start at 2 p.m. CT.