Jillian Brown handles the ball in a game against Loyola. Photo by Maren Kranking / North by Northwestern.

Northwestern fans, the wait is finally over. The Northwestern women’s basketball team (8-13, 1-9 B1G) beat the Wisconsin Badgers (7-15, 2-8 B1G) 70-67 for its first win in conference play this season.

It was tough sledding at the start. Northwestern found themselves down 15-2 early in the first quarter and 39-26 at halftime. Then it became a game of runs. The Wildcats ripped off a 17-0 scoring run to open the second half and remained competitive from then on out.

Late in the fourth quarter, Northwestern trailed by one before fourth-year guard Kaylah Rainey sent the ball to first-year guard Caroline Lau who sank the most clutch three-pointer of her young career to give the ’Cats a lead they never looked back from.

Third-year forward Paige Mott led the Wildcats with a career-high 23 points, and second-year forward Caileigh Walsh did her part scoring 18 of her own. Mott dominated in the paint and was a huge part of the Wildcats’ 34 paint points compared to the Badgers’ 28. Graduate student Sydney Wood also reached double-digits as she finished with 12 points and three huge blocks.

Wisconsin turned the ball over an astounding 21 times compared to Northwestern’s 10. Second-year guard Hailey Weaver led the Wildcats with 4 steals, and the ’Cats would generate 18 points off turnovers with 13 of those points coming in their fiery third quarter.

The game was a tale of two halves as Northwestern shot an abysmal 18.38% from the field in the first half and found themselves down by 13 points on two occasions. They would go on to shoot over 50% in the second, and most of their points in the paint and off turnovers would occur after halftime.

Slow starts make it tough to win games in the Big Ten. Northwestern was able to overcome it this time, but in the future second-half Northwestern needs to show up earlier if they want to escape being in last place in the conference. They’ll have that opportunity on Thursday against a Penn State team (12-9, 3-7 B1G) who has also struggled in conference play.

A weight has been lifted off the Wildcats’ shoulders with this win. Now they’ll see if they can keep it off with more wins.

Thumbnail photo by Maren Kranking / North by Northwestern.