Pulliam, pictured against Dartmouth in December, had six of Northwestern's 19 steals against Michigan State on Wednesday. Photo by Brandi Simpson / North By Northwestern

They earned that number.

Northwestern women’s basketball (17-2, 7-1 B1G), finally ranked at No. 22 this week by the AP Poll, honored the recognition on Thursday by dominating Michigan State (11-8, 4-4 B1G) 76-48 for their most lopsided conference win of the 2019-2020 season. The Wildcats’ win put them at 6-0 on the road this season, and gave the Spartans their first home loss. (now 8-1 at East Lansing).

After a sluggish offensive start — just two points in the game’s first five minutes — the Wildcats began firing on all cylinders. The team scored 13 quick points on a range of looks late in the first quarter, taking a lead they would never look back from.

The ’Cats kept up their strong shooting throughout the rest of the game. They were never outscored in a quarter, and convincingly broke away in the third with a 26-9 margin over Michigan State. In the paint, Northwestern also outscored them 38-18.

Lindsey Pulliam (22 pts, 5 reb, 5 ast), Northwestern’s leading scorer this season, shook off a rough 0-for-4 start from the floor to finish on 8-for-19 shooting. Burton (22 pts, 8 reb) — who earned Naismith's Women's Defensive Player of the Year 2020 Midseason Team honors earlier in the day — had explosive breakaways downcourt aided by six steals. Abbie Wolf (14 pts, 9 reb) also had a good night, as her, Pulliam and Burton alone outscored the Spartans 58-48.

The Wildcat defense held their own throughout the whole game. Their backcourt, which has impressed against many opponents this season, held the Spartans to under 10 points in both the first and third quarters. Led by Burton, the team came away with a season-high 19 steals as Michigan State anguished with 24 total turnovers (a mark shared with three other Northwestern opponents).

While Moira Joiner led the Spartans with 17 points on 6-for-14 shooting and five three-pointers (matching the Wildcats’ total), the rest of the team’s starters had just seven combined points. Perhaps most shockingly, Northwestern held Nia Clouden and Taryn McCutcheon — Michigan State’s two leading scorers this season — scoreless the entire game.

The ’Cats will take their 5-game winning streak on the road Sunday as they take on No. 20 Maryland. In arguably their statement victory of the season, Northwestern pummeled the then-No. 12 Terrapins at Welsh-Ryan Arena 81-58 on New Years’ Eve. The upcoming matchup could have big ramifications in the race for conference title.

Game stats and details provided by SideArm Stats