Women’s Basketball: Wildcats fall to Syracuse despite Pulliam’s career night


Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah goes up for a layup. The junior forward and the Wildcats fell to Syracuse on Thursday.

Joseph Wilkinson, Assistant Sports Editor

Women’s Basketball

A spectacular performance from freshman guard Lindsey Pulliam wasn’t enough for Northwestern on Thursday night, as the Wildcats fell to Syracuse 81-74.

Pulliam poured in 29 points on 13-of-20 shooting from the field, but NU (5-3) once again struggled to take care of the ball, piling up 21 turnovers while struggling to deal with a full-court press from the Orange (7-0).

“They hit a big three in fourth quarter, and we couldn’t get to some loose balls that really were the difference in the game,” coach Joe McKeown said. “I thought we played really well. We fought really hard. We just had too many turnovers at the wrong time.”

Three of those crucial turnovers came with three minutes or less remaining in the game, including back-to-back turnovers by junior forward Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah and senior guard Lydia Rohde that resulted in Syracuse extending its lead to 7 points with only 34 seconds remaining and putting the game out of reach.

Prior to that point, the largest Orange lead had been only 8 points, and that came in the first quarter when the score was 12-4. Despite the turnovers, the game was tight the whole way through, largely thanks to the efforts of Pulliam, whose 29 points were more than twice as many as NU’s second-leading scorer, sophomore forward Abi Scheid.

“I was just staying confident,” Pulliam said. “I knew my teammates were going to get me the ball, and coach was telling me to keep shooting. It gives me confidence, knowing that my teammates have that confidence in me.”

While Pulliam was filling it up on one end, the Cats’ defense was giving up plenty on the other end. After two stingy defensive performances in the Challenge in Music City, NU allowed a season-high 81 points in the Carrier Dome.

The press helped the Orange create offense, as the hosts scored 21 of those points off Cats turnovers.

“Most of our turnovers came out of the press,” Scheid said. “We’ve just got to stay poised during that, use ball fakes, getting the zone to shift, just doing the small things will lead to less turnovers.”

Syracuse was led by sophomore Tiana Mangakahia, who finished with 26 points, and junior Miranda Drummond, who tied Pulliam for the game high with 29. Mangakahia also tallied 12 assists, while Drummond pulled down 11 rebounds.

Mangakahia and Drummond were especially dominant late, combining for 34 of the Orange’s 47 points in the second half. Mangakahia shined in the fourth quarter, canning all 10 of her free throw attempts down the stretch to dash NU’s comeback hopes.

The Cats will be back in action in nonconference play Sunday when they host Milwaukee. Last season, NU squeaked by the Panthers, escaping with a 65-63 victory after Milwaukee missed two layups in the last 10 seconds.

“I think we’re close to being undefeated, but we’re also capable of getting better,” McKeown said. “We’ve just got to get better at taking care of the ball. It’s something we really have to focus on between now and the start of Big Ten play.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @joe_f_wilkinson