Women’s Basketball: Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah stars in victory on Senior Night


Alison Albelda/Daily Senior Staffer

Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah attempts a layup. The senior had a double-double on her Senior Night as the Cats beat Indiana.

Ryan Wangman, Audio Editor

Women’s Basketball

For one night and one night only, Welsh-Ryan Arena got a name change: Pallas’s Palace.

The moniker, emblazoned on white No. 14 t-shirts that were handed out to fans who attended the game, commemorated senior center Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah’s last regular-season home game for Northwestern (16-12, 9-8 Big Ten). In her final act on her home court, she notched a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds while tacking on six steals en route to a dominant 69-49 win over Indiana (18-11, 7-9) on Tuesday night.

“I’m just really happy to have had a chance to play with the amazing group of girls that (I) have these past couple years,” Kunaiyi-Akpanah said. “I feel really blessed and I just want to thank God, like coach (Joe) McKeown took a chance on me and here we are today, and this is my last — potentially last — home game and I get to spend it with a group of amazing people.”

The Wildcats dominated from the jump, never trailing at any point in the game. Their defense was ferocious, forcing 17 Indiana turnovers and blocking eight Hoosier shots as they held their opponents to a mere 31 percent from the floor.

McKeown said it was an emotional night for the players and that Kunayi-Akpanah led the way with her poise.

“She just has this incredible attitude, work ethic and (I’m) just really proud of her and I think she inspired her team tonight,” McKeown said. “We just played with a purpose, with passion and shared the ball. We got great shots, just played really hard so it was a great team effort.”

While Kunaiyi-Akpanah played the starring role in the game, sophomore guard Lindsey Pulliam put on an impressive display of her own. Pulliam aggressively hunted for her own shot and put her trademark pull-up jumper on display as she racked up 24 points on 50 percent shooting to lead all scorers.

Pulliam has feasted on the Hoosiers in the three games she’s played against them in her career, torching Indiana for 33 points last season and 27 points in January’s victory at Assembly Hall.

“I just get in a rhythm, it just happens to be that way,” Pulliam said. “They play me so tight that I’m able to curl off screens and just get open shots, create off the dribble. So I mean I just get in a rhythm every time it happens to be them.”

With the win, NU is a lock to earn a first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament but the Cats will need to wait out the remainder of the week as well as the result of Sunday’s game against Iowa to determine their opponent. Regardless of what happens then, McKeown said Tuesday’s performance gives the team momentum heading into the conference competition.

“We’re going to have 10 or 11 teams that are going to have winning records going into the postseason,” McKeown said. “I mean that shows you how strong our league is so you know to come out of it and go into the postseason I think everything’s ahead of us.”

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