Editor’s note: Each week, WNUR Sports recaps the news and results from the in-season, non-revenue teams that we cover in order to help our listeners and readers stay connected to the pulse of Northwestern athletics. For men’s basketball coverage, click HERE.
By Hap Conover
1/24: WIN at Nebraska, 58-54
1/27: WIN at Illinois, 64-56
Following a difficult start to conference play that saw the Wildcats drop three games by a total of eight points, the Northwestern Women’s Basketball team is right back in the picture as a tournament contender after reeling off four straight victories, including two on the road this week.
On Thursday, the Wildcats traveled to Lincoln to face a tournament team from a year ago in the Nebraska Cornhuskers. In a back and forth game which came down to the last minute, Northwestern was able to grind out a crucial road victory thanks to great play from its senior leader Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah and leading scorer Lindsey Pulliam. Down 54-53 with 30 seconds remaining, Kunaiyi-Akpanah spun and euro-stepped her way towards the basket, converting a layup that gave the Wildcats a lead they would not relinquish. She notched her 11th double-double this season with 10 points and 19 rebounds while also blocking four shots. Pulliam scored a team high 21 points on 53 percent shooting from the field, with 10 coming in a back and forth third quarter. The win was Northwestern’s first over Nebraska since 2016.
Continuing play away from Welsh-Ryan Arena, Northwestern headed to the State Farm Center in Champaign on Sunday looking to defeat the struggling Illini. Outplayed for the first three quarters of the game, Northwestern stormed back with an 18-0 run started by a Veronica Burton half court buzzer-beater to defeat Illinois and move to 6-3 in Big Ten play. With four of five starters scoring in double figures and both Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah and Bryana Hopkins recording double-doubles, the Wildcats were able to overcome poor free throw shooting (12-24) and an 11-point deficit late in the third quarter. Holding Illinois to five points on 10 percent shooting (2-20) in the final frame, Northwestern’s defense suffocated the Illini attack with Hopkins and Kunaiyi-Akpanah denying any second chance opportunities on the boards. The win marks Northwestern’s longest conference win streak since the 2014-15 season and brings them into a tie for fourth place in the Big Ten with Purdue.
The Wildcats return to Evanston for two games this week, with Minnesota visiting on Thursday evening and Ohio State coming to Welsh-Ryan on Sunday afternoon. Both games will be available on 89.3 FM and WNURSports.com.