Women’s Basketball: Wildcats use balanced attack to rout No. 21 Duke


Katie Pach / The Daily Northwestern

Lindsey Pulliam puts up a jumper. The sophomore guard had 21 points in NU’s victory over Duke.

Benjamin Rosenberg, Copy Chief

Women’s Basketball

Northwestern christened the new Welsh-Ryan Arena in style Sunday, racing out to an early lead and not looking back in an 84-58 blowout of No. 21 Duke.

The Wildcats (2-0) got big contributions from up and down the lineup, with four players scoring in double figures. Sophomore guard Lindsey Pulliam led the way with 21 points, and sophomore guard Jordan Hamilton and junior center Abi Scheid had 18 apiece. Senior forward Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah had her second straight double-double, with 11 points and 17 rebounds.

“(The balance) says a lot about the depth of our team right now,” coach Joe McKeown said. “We’re just a lot deeper than we were last year, and this is one of the more unselfish teams you’re going to see. Nobody really cares who gets credit, so they’re fun to coach from that standpoint.”

NU never trailed in the game, getting a 3-pointer from Scheid on its first possession and making its first four shots. The Cats forced eight turnovers in the first quarter, after which they held an 18-11 lead.

Early in the second quarter, NU turned up the defensive pressure even more. The Cats held Duke scoreless for over four minutes in one stretch to open up a double-digit lead. Kunaiyi-Akpanah was a vacuum cleaner for NU, accumulating 12 rebounds in the first half.

“Most people want to muscle it up in there, but I try to use my speed a bit because I’m a bit faster than most people my size,” Kunaiyi-Akpanah said. “Just don’t give up on any rebound, that’s the one thing I’m kind of good at, so I try to do it as best as I can.”

The Blue Devils (0-1) made a run late in the half, with guard Rayah Craig making a buzzer-beating jumper to pull her team within 33-25 at halftime. But the Cats responded immediately out of the break, opening the third quarter on 9-0 run that included 3-pointers from Scheid and freshman guard Veronica Burton.

Pulliam also heated up after halftime, scoring 10 points in the third quarter after being held to seven in the first half. Her spurt helped NU lead by as many as 20 in the third before Duke cut into the deficit to make it a 15-point game after three quarters.

“My teammates, coaches (were) telling me to keep shooting the ball,” Pulliam said. “(I need to) just continue to stay with my shot and be confident in myself.”

The Cats appeared to have the game locked down, but the Blue Devils had another mini-run in them, cutting the deficit to 10 with just under six minutes remaining. After NU called a timeout, the Cats proceeded to go on an 18-0 run to break the game wide open, not allowing another point for nearly five minutes.

NU went 24-for-29 from the foul line and had 19 assists on 26 made field goals. The Cats also forced 24 turnovers and held Duke to 3-for-16 on 3-pointers.

After winning at Green Bay on Tuesday, NU has now opened the season with back-to-back wins against teams that played in the NCAA Tournament last year. The Cats still have a daunting nonconference schedule in front of them, with games against No. 15 DePaul and No. 19 Marquette coming up in December.

“It’s early, and our whole focus as a staff is just to get better,” McKeown said. “We’ve got a brutal nonconference schedule, and hopefully that will help as we get into January and February.”

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