‘Cats Topple Hoosiers, Establish Themselves as Big Ten Threat
By Viktor Ostlund
On Thursday evening, the Northwestern Wildcats defeated the #15 ranked Indiana Hoosiers 71-69 in an overtime thriller.
Despite a solid home win against Purdue the Sunday prior, Joe McKeown’s 14-2 squad still hadn’t secured a top 25 ranking this season as they traveled to Bloomington to face off against an experienced Hoosier side that had been ranked inside the AP top 15 for seven consecutive weeks.
The ‘Cats started off hot, stunning the Hoosiers in the opening minutes as they jumped out to an 11-2 lead just four minutes into the game. With assists on five of seven made baskets, Northwestern led 17-11 at the end of the first quarter.
However, Indiana stormed back in the second as Indiana’s freshman forward Mackenzie Holmes caught fire, dominating Northwestern in the paint. The Hoosiers flipped the script and led 31-24 at the end the half.
During the third quarter, the ‘Cats battled and hung tough but were unable to chip away at the Hoosiers’ lead, which was at times as large as 12. With Indiana’s trio of forwards Alexa Gulbe, Mackenzie Holmes, and Brenna Wise holding down the fort, Northwestern struggled to get points in the paint.
However, with the finish line in sight in the fourth, Indiana began to tire and Northwestern’s blizzard defense took full advantage. Sydney Wood and Veronica Burton, Northwestern’s takeaway specialists, did what they do best in the closing minutes, as they went on to combine for 9 of the Wildcats’ 13 steals on the day.
With 30 seconds left on the clock and Northwestern down by three, Wood picked Ali Patberg’s pocket and gave the ball to Veronica Burton who went the full length of the court, getting a crucial and-1 layup to fall. Her ensuing free throw tied the game at 62 apiece and forced overtime at Assembly Hall.
With forward Abbie Wolf having fouled out at the end of regulation, the ‘Cats had a tough road to victory ahead of them. Overtime mirrored the first four quarters as Indiana took the lead early and held a four point lead late with just over a minute left in the extra period. However, despite Northwestern’s struggles from behind the arc on the night (3-13), Abi Scheid knocked down a crucial three to pull Northwestern within one with 1:03 left on the clock.
Later on, Burton stole the ball yet again and drove to the basket to give Northwestern a one-point lead with 32 seconds remaining. Indiana would come up empty on the ensuing possession and send Lindsey Pulliam to the free throw line. After Pulliam went 1-2 from the charity stripe, everything came down to the final possession with Indiana down 2.
As one might have guessed, given the ‘Cats tenacious defensive performance down the stretch, Jordan Hamilton snatched the ball, and the game, from Indiana’s Grace Berger on the final play and dribbled out the clock to give Northwestern the 71-69 road win.
Abi Scheid led Northwestern in both points (16) and assists (4) while Abbie Wolf led the team in rebounds (9).
After this thriller, the Wildcats will return to action this Sunday against Penn State at Welsh-Ryan Arena.