Down 57-45 to Indiana with less than eight minutes left, Northwestern women’s basketball was on the ropes.
Against the 15th-ranked Hoosiers, who had mounted an early comeback in the first half and built on their lead from there, the Wildcats were bruised and bleeding in their fight for the top spot in the Big Ten Conference standings.
But as a team with real NCAA Tournament hopes, they didn’t back down. Instead, they clawed their way to a 17-5 run and forced an overtime that ended on a dramatic steal by Jordan Hamilton, who sprinted to the other side of the court and ran out the game clock to secure victory for the Wildcats.
It was an incredible finish for Northwestern (15-2, 5-1 B1G), who by defeating Indiana (14-4, 4-2 B1G) 71-69 on Wednesday night all but secured a spot as a top-25 team in next week’s AP Poll. Having lingered just beneath the poll’s surface for several weeks now, the Wildcats appear set up for their first ranking since the 2015-16 season regardless of how their game against Penn State on Sunday goes.
Northwestern and Indiana entered the game in a 4-way tie with Iowa and Rutgers atop the Big Ten women’s basketball standings. The Wildcats, Hawkeyes and Scarlet Knights all won Wednesday night, forming a sort of triumvirate atop the conference. The Wildcats also added to their perfect 5-0 record on the road this season.
Though Abi Scheid (16 pts, 7 reb, 4 ast) led the Wildcats in scoring and had two 3-pointers in a game where Northwestern just couldn’t buy them, the game’s star was Veronica Burton (15 pts, 8 reb, 4 ast). She came up with five steals against Indiana, shot 9-for-10 from the free throw line, and had the game-tying 3-point play (making a fast break layup while getting fouled, and hitting the free throw).
Burton wasn’t the only key defensive figure for the ’Cats, as Sydney Wood (7 pts) got four steals and helped the team end their night with 13 takeaways against a Hoosier team that committed 21 turnovers. Unfortunately, Northwestern also finished with 12 turnovers, including four from leading scorer Lindsey Pulliam (12 pts, 4 reb, 4 ast). Pulliam, a high-volume shooter, had a difficult night and went 5-for-22 from the field.
Abbie Wolf (13 pts, 9 reb), who helped keep NU afloat in the second half with four field goals in 10 minutes, fouled out in the fourth quarter trying to help Burton get to the rim and tie the game with two minutes left. Thankfully, the team held strong despite her absence in the overtime, and pulled off the stunning comeback with a 6-0 run in the game’s final minute.
Though the Wildcats took an early 11-2 lead thanks to strong play on both sides of the court, ending the first quarter up 17-11, their shooting went south in the second as the Hoosiers eventually picked up offensive momentum. Indiana led 31-24 at halftime, and slightly built on their margin as both teams traded blows in the third quarter.
Off the Hoosier bench, Mackenzie Holmes went 9-for-14 with 22 points and nine rebounds, though she missed a game-winning jump shot at the buzzer before overtime. Grace Berger, who had Indiana’s turnover at the end of overtime, finished 16 points, eight rebounds and four steals.
Game stats and details collected from StatBroadcast