Northwestern women’s basketball (11-7, 4-3 B1G) picked up perhaps their most impressive win of the season on Sunday, pummelling Wisconsin (10-9, 1-6 B1G) 72-46 at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The win was fuelled by Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah’s tenth double-double of the season, and propelled the ‘Cats into a 3-way tie for 5th place in the Big Ten along with Nebraska and Indiana.
The first quarter was back-and-forth as Wisconsin shot 47% from the field. After the Badgers jumped out to a 15-7 lead, Jordan Hamilton and the Wildcats took the final 6 points to end the quarter down by 2.
The second quarter was the story of the game. The ‘Cats outscored the Badgers 15-2 as a combination of stifling defense and bad shots from Wisconsin led to their shooting 1-17 from the field. Lindsey Pulliam scored the first four points of the quarter after scoring the last four of the first quarter on her way to a cool 21 points to go along with 3 steals. Pulliam shot 11-12 from the charity stripe in the game. Meanwhile, Kunaiyi-Akpanah embraced her role as the leader of this team on both ends of the floor. In the midst of Northwestern’s run, she delivered a highlight-reel block to continue Wisconsin’s scoring drought.
“Pallas is just unique in her commitment to rebounding and plays hard every time she walks in the gym,” said head coach Joe McKeown.
Northwestern only improved throughout the second half, turning an impressive run into a blowout. The formula was the same: Kunaiyi-Akpanah led the offensive charge on her way to a season-high 21 points, and Pulliam continued to contribute. As a team, the Wildcats differentiated themselves with excellent mid-range shooting. Both teams scored 26 points in the paint and Northwestern shot just 1-10 from 3-point range, but consistently found open jump shots inside the arc and drained them. After their first-half surge, Wisconsin would finish with just a 25% shooting percentage.
The win marks Northwestern’s second impressive win in a row. The team may be turning a corner almost halfway into Big Ten play. Joe McKeown has a young but talented team, and they finally seem to be realizing their potential.
“We’re starting to learn how to play with each other...We got good shots, and I like the way we’re sharing the basketball,” said McKeown.
Northwestern will seek their first three-game win streak since November when they take on Nebraska (9-9, 4-3 B1G) in Lincoln on Thursday.