Northwestern Women’s Basketball Pulls Off its most Impressive Win of the Season
By Ben Moskow
In its recent three-game winning streak, Northwestern women’s basketball has put on some impressive displays. The ‘Cats exploded for 87 and came back from a late deficit against an Iowa team with one of the highest-powered offenses in the country. They took down a Top-15 team in Ohio State by double digits.
Neither of these wins compared to what they pulled off in East Lansing earlier today.
The Wildcats (11-3, 9-3 B1G) withstood injuries to Jordan Hamilton and Lindsey Pulliam and a foulout from Sydney Wood to pull off an improbable road win over Michigan State (10-5, 5-5 B1G) by a score of 63-60.
Northwestern was already shorthanded going into Sunday’s game, with Courtney Shaw and Laya Hartman on the bench due to injuries. This did not phase them early on though, as the Wildcats held a 37-18 lead at halftime. The stifling blizzard defense forced 12 Michigan State turnovers in the half, and Veronica Burton and Lindsey Pulliam, Northwestern’s resident Batman and Robin duo, outscored the Spartans on their own.
Michigan State came back with a vengeance out of the break. The Spartans’ two-big look, deploying 6-foot-3-inch forwards Taiyier Parks and Alisia Smith at the same time, stymied the undersized Wildcats, who had no choice but to begin hacking. In total, Northwestern committed 16 fouls in the second half, allowing the Spartans to cut the lead all the way to nine by the end of the third quarter.
The uncontrolled fouling was only part of the story. With just under four minutes to play in the third, Jordan Hamilton pulled up lame. She would be relegated to the bench for the rest of the game.
After a Jasmine McWilliams jumper pushed the lead to 53-43 for Northwestern, Michigan State scored seven in a row to pull within three. Then, with 6:59 to play, Lindsey Pulliam suffered an injury that forced her to come out of the game. The roster continued to dwindle. Now only seven players were available, with Burton and Sydney Wood being the only starters among them.
Less than two minutes later, Wood picked up her fourth and fifth fouls, knocking her out of the game. Down to six. With four reserves on the floor alongside her, it was time for Burton to be Batman.
With 4:33 to play, Burton picked up her fourth foul on an and-one from the Spartans’ Julia Ayrault, which tied the game at 56. Add this to Paige Mott coming into the quarter with four fouls and that gave the Wildcats six eligible players, two of which could foul out with just one more misstep.
It felt like hours where Burton was the only battle-tested Wildcat on the floor. In reality, it was about 90 seconds of game time, as Pulliam, who could barely walk back to the bench just minutes ago, worked up the strength to get back on the floor.
The two would provide all the offense the Wildcats needed the rest of the way. Pulliam hit a huge mid-range jumper and Burton was clutch from the free-throw line the rest of the way. They combined for 41 of Northwestern’s 63 and Burton contributed an astonishing 14 free throws.
Michigan State’s star guard Nia Clouden, who shot just 5-of-15 and 2-of-7 from range, had two chances to tie the game from three but both shots rimmed out. Against all odds, the Wildcats held on.
Northwestern had more turnovers (18) than field goals (17), were outrebounded by double digits and only recorded six assists. Despite having nowhere near the lineup that he had hoped to field in a tense midseason Big Ten game, Joe McKeown’s team found a way.
The Wildcats will next take the court Thursday at home against Rutgers. Tune in with us at WNUR Sports, the flagship station for Northwestern Women’s Basketball.