Preview: Northwestern vs. Maryland
By Pat Timlin
Big Ten Player of the Year Naz Hillmon scored 17 points in the first half against Northwestern in Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals. It looked like she could score 50, which she’s already done this year. But the Wildcats were determined to not allow Michigan to beat them a third time this year, especially after losing to the Wolverines in last year’s tournament. Going into the matchup, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Veronica Burton decided to have herself a day.
“I just think we kind of brought a different mentality and a different energy,” Burton said. “We wanted it a bit more than them, and I think that’s evident from the tip.”
The junior point guard finished with 25 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and three steals, and notched her third 20-point double-double of the season, as the Wildcats won 65-49 over the No. 13 Wolverines.
Looking ahead to its matchup against No. 7 Maryland, Northwestern is out for revenge again, which we know is a dish best served cold, and in a blizzard.
- Run in transition. Northwestern outscored Michigan 13-0 in fastbreak points yesterday, not to mention the number of fouls NU drew when moving down the court fast. In their matchup with Maryland two weeks ago, the ‘Cats were outscored 13-7 on the fast break. For a team that loves to force turnovers and run down the floor, getting easy buckets in transition will be key.
- Run Katie Benzan off the three-point line. The senior All-Big Ten Second Teamer shot 50% from three this season, the highest percentage in the conference. She has the ability to take over a game by knocking down more deep balls than the opposing team. Benzan struggled in her past five games, only notching a singular three in each outing, and Northwestern needs to make sure she doesn’t get hot today.
- Get players going. Pulliam and Burton have done a tremendous job of handling the scoring so far in the tournament, but if Northwestern is going to make a deep postseason run, they will need stellar play from elsewhere. A big game from Sydney Wood, Jordan Hamilton, or even someone off the bench such as Lauren Satterwhite could be the difference between advancing or going home.
- Settle for three-pointers, especially if they aren’t falling. NU shot 2-of-13 from behind the arc in its last matchup with the Terps. While Maryland did shoot the same clip, they’re a three-point heavy team, and Northwestern doesn’t have the same high powered offense to compete shot for shot. Joe McKeown’s team should try to get inside, get to the line, and play to their strengths.
- Get into foul trouble. Going into the break against Michigan, all three of NU’s bigs found themselves in foul trouble. First-year forwards Anna Morris and Paige Mott each had three, along with two committed by Courtney Shaw. A repeat of that today may not bode as well as it did against Michigan.
- Allow Maryland to beat you back down the floor. February was a very tough month for this ‘Cats team. Injuries and a tired backcourt led to missed shots by the ‘Cats and easy post-ups for opponents. If Northwestern can play hard for a full 40 minutes, they will stand a better chance against a deep Terrapins team.
The ‘Cats and Wolverines are set to tip off from Bankers Life Fieldhouse at 1 p.m. CT Friday. Full live coverage can be found on WNUR Sports on Mixlr and 89.3-F.M in the Evanston-Chicago area.