Season Recap: Women’s Basketball

By Kiki Higuchi

Season Statistics

Overall Record: 16-9

Home Record: 7-5

Away Record: 6-2

Most Points: Veronica Burton (405)

Most Assists: Veronica Burton (123)

Most Rebounds: Sydney Wood (140)

Most Minutes: Lindsey Pulliam (926)

Season Overview

The ‘Cats started this season with a lot to live up to, coming off a stellar 2019-20 season with the best record in program history and a Big Ten regular-season championship. Northwestern opened its season with a dominant 93-57 win against Eastern Illinois and maintained a four-game win streak before stumbling against Nebraska. Unfortunately, the team’s first loss was much like the next nine losses the Wildcats would see before the season was out: A strong start marred by an inability to put their opponents away in crunch time.

Despite their struggles in the second half, the ‘Cats were a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten. The ‘Cats managed to sweep Iowa in Big Ten play, showing off their defensive skill. In their first outing against the Hawkeyes, Northwestern limited their star Caitlin Clark to just eight points, her lowest total of the season. That’s not to say the Wildcats couldn’t throw down on offense. In their 69-57 win over Ohio State at Welsh-Ryan Arena, junior Veronica Burton and senior Lindsey Pulliam both posted double-doubles. Burton had 20 points and 15 rebounds, and Pulliam with 15 points and 10 rebounds. 

The Wildcats came away from the regular season with a winning record in 2021 and earned their first berth in the NCAA tournament since 2015, along with their first NCAA tournament win in 28 years. Their final win of the season against UCF was bittersweet — it was a reminder of the talent that Northwestern will forgo in 2022 and the players who have yet to make their mark on Wildcat history. Senior Lindsey Pulliam was the engine of the Northwestern offense, and fellow senior Jordan Hamilton was the distributor. Meanwhile, Junior Courtney Shaw returned to the court from injury to post double-digit points, and first-year Paige Mott was close behind, allowing the ‘Cats to dominate the paint. 

MVP: Veronica Burton

The title “Two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Veronica Burton” doesn’t describe her junior season at Northwestern. While it’s true that Burton led the Big Ten for the second year in a row in steals (96), she added so much more to her game this past season. She led the ‘Cats with 405 points, 39 three-pointers and 123 assists. Burton brought her aggression on defense to her offensive game, driving the lane for the and-one and laying out some icy step-backs. The depth she added to her game this past season also earned her a spot on the undefeated USA AmeriCup roster during the off-season. 

Key Contributors: Lindsey Pulliam & Sydney Wood

Pulliam’s playmaking this season starts with her game in 2019. Her stand-out junior season solidified her as one of the biggest threats in the Big Ten, putting a target on her back that the Wildcats used to their advantage. She clocked the most minutes of any Northwestern player, keeping defenders in her face and giving her teammates open lanes to the basket. That’s not to say she was quiet in 2020; Pulliam still managed to pull up 388 points and 133 rebounds. 

On the other hand, junior Sydney Wood was a force on the other end of the court last season. She led the team with 140 rebounds and 28 blocks while clocking an impressive 65 steals, second only to Burton. However, the most impressive thing about Wood last season was her consistency on the court. She posted double digits in all but eight games last season. The Wildcats struggled with consistency in crunch time, making Wood a key player on the Northwestern roster.

First-year Stars: Paige Mott & Anna Morris

After starting center Shaw was injured early in the season, both Paige Mott and Anna Morris stepped up to fill her shoes. Mott and Morris’ freshman outing was essentially a trial by fire. They now step into their roles in the team with over 600 minutes of experience between them and 133 points to show for it. 

Both ‘Cats struggled early in their starting roles with foul trouble, but once they started to warm up to Big Ten play and Northwestern’s defensive rotations, they were able to start locking in on their offensive output. Mott scored in every game after she assumed her starting role in the line-up. Definitely expect both Mott and Morris to be key contributors this coming season.