Women’s Basketball: Northwestern just falls short against No. 14 Maryland


Keshia Johnson/Daily Senior Staffer

Jordan Hamilton surveys the Maryland defense. The freshman guard had six assists in Thursday’s game against the Terps.

Charlie Goldsmith, Assistant Sports Editor

Women’s Basketball

Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah was forced to the ground three times against No. 14 Maryland. The first two lit a fire for Northwestern in its late comeback, but the third fall finally knocked the wind out of the charge Kunaiyi-Akpanah led.

Down a point with eight minutes to go, the junior forward was checked by Maryland forward Brianna Fraser, and the Wildcats’ leading rebounder was helped off the court. She returned to the game three minutes later and converted an and-1 that tied the game, but Fraser elbowed her in the face with three minutes to go and Kunaiyi-Akpanah left the game again.

Then with 53 seconds to go, down by a basket, Kunaiyi-Akpanah was overpowered and called for a foul as she challenged the Terrapins’ forward. Fraser converted the layup and the free throw, all but sealing the Cats’ 68-65 loss.

Kunaiyi-Akpanah, who finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, said NU’s (9-13, 2-6 Big Ten) physicality took Maryland (18-3, 7-1) by surprise and forced Fraser and her teammates to play with more intensity down the stretch.

“I think they didn’t expect us to come out so strong, so they reacted the only way they knew how to react,” she said. “When teams are being physical with you, you can’t second guess yourself.”

With Kunaiyi-Akpanah’s absences throughout the fourth quarter, freshman guard Lindsey Pulliam played a significant role in the Cats’ offensive turnaround. After NU scored just 10 points in the second quarter and spotted the Terrapins a 41-33 advantage at halftime, Pulliam scored 11 of her team-leading 19 points in the last 20 minutes.

Facing the Big Ten’s first-placed team, which beat No. 8 Ohio State 99-69 on Monday, Pulliam said she knew the importance of shooting aggressively and inspiring the Cats to do the same.

“We didn’t settle for anything,” she said. “We just kept going at them and we were aggressive throughout.”

As Pulliam and the Cats’ offense kept matching Maryland’s scoring, they gained momentum as the second half went on. NU trailed by 12 points early in the third quarter, but sophomore center Abbie Wolf’s buzzer-beating layup cut the deficit to 5 heading into the final period.

The Cats tied the game twice in the fourth quarter, but Fraser scored 5 of Maryland’s last 9 points against a hobbled Kunaiyi-Akpanah, including the post move with under a minute to go that sealed the result.

NU turned the ball over three times in the final three minutes, and coach Joe McKeown said giveaways plagued the Cats down the stretch. But aside from a few possessions, he said he was satisfied seeing his players show the most physical and mental toughness they have all season.

“I told our players, ‘That’s why you came to the Big Ten,” he said. “We just had opportunities in the fourth quarter with the game tied where we just couldn’t get a stop.”

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