Northwestern women’s basketball (10-7, 3-3 B1G) secured a big win on Wednesday night, taking down the No. 25 Indiana Hoosiers (15-3, 4-2 B1G) in Bloomington. The win catapulted the Wildcats to sixth in the conference and represented their third win over a ranked team this season. After building up a big lead, Northwestern did enough to stave off a desperate Hoosier comeback attempt in the fourth quarter.
For Northwestern, the game was characterized by a dominant first-half performance from Veronica Burton and a dominant second-half performance from Lindsey Pulliam. In the end, Pulliam led all scorers with a season-high 27 points on 8/19 shooting, while Burton added a career-high 19 points, including 5 three-pointers. Senior Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah also contributed 11 points and 11 rebounds for the 30th double-double of her career. With nine double-doubles on the season, Kunaiyi-Akpanah is in the top 25 in the nation in the statistic.
Defense has been the stalwart of this team all season: The ‘Cats average over 17 turnovers per game and over 9 steals. On Wednesday night, the defense again stifled a ranked opponent in the first quarter. Northwestern jumped out to an 11-2 lead with under four minutes remaining in the quarter (a poor shooting night for the Hoosiers was also a big contributor). Meanwhile, Burton caught fire from three to lead the offensive charger. Burton went 5/8 from the field in the first half, including 4/6 from beyond the arc.
The Wildcats moved the ball effectively and were also able to create high-percentage opportunities in the paint, leading to a 47 shooting percentage in the half. Northwestern was also aggressive on the offensive boards and out-rebounded Indiana by a margin of 25-13 in the half. Center Abbie Wolf pulled down 4 offensive boards in 19 minutes of play throughout the game. Northwestern carried a 37-26 advantage into halftime.
Northwestern did not shoot as well in the half but played well enough to prevent Indiana from getting too close for comfort. The Hoosiers made a run after the break, and spent most of the third quarter within ten points of the Wildcats. Forward Brenna Wise and guard Ali Patberg – Indiana’s two leading scorers – almost single-handedly kept up with the ‘Cats throughout the quarter. Meanwhile, Pulliam was the go-to option for Northwestern as she put up 10 of Northwestern’s 20 points in the quarter.
Down the stretch, Northwestern got a little sloppy, as their 16 turnovers indicate. The defense held strong, however, even as Indiana pulled within 9 with just over 4 minutes left. As Northwestern entered the bonus, the game was sealed when Pulliam nailed 4 free throw attempts in 13 seconds of play to extend the Wildcat lead to 11 with just over a minute left. Pulliam finished 11-13 from the charity stripe on the night.
Despite a series of layups from Indiana in the game’s final minute, Northwestern ended up on top by a score of 75-69.
Northwestern will look for another road win against Wisconsin (10-7, 1-4 B1G) on Sunday afternoon.