Women’s Basketball: Northwestern prepares for final regular season game against Iowa


Daily file photo by Owen Stidman

Veronica Burton dribbles the ball. The freshman guard scored 15 points in the Cats’ WNIT quarterfinal win on Saturday.

Andrew Golden, Assistant Sports Editor

Women’s Basketball

With just one game remaining in the regular season, Northwestern will have its hands full as they prepare to face No. 12 Iowa.

The Wildcats (16-12, 9-8 Big Ten) come into the game with some momentum after dominating at home with a 20-point trouncing of Indiana. Unfortunately for NU, the Hawkeyes (22-6, 13-4) have also played some great basketball lately.

Iowa has won 11 of its last 13 games and, as if it wasn’t hard enough for the Cats, the Hawkeyes are currently 14-0 at home this season. In the teams’ two matchups last year, Iowa came out on top, beating NU at home and in the Big Ten Tournament by nine and 10 respectively.

The key to the Hawkeyes’ success against the Cats last season was primarily the play of senior forward Megan Gustafson. In the two games against NU last season, she averaged 18.5 points per game and 12.5 rebounds.

After winning Big Ten Player of the year a season ago, Gustafson has been better than last season, averaging 27.4 points per game 13.3 rebounds per game. Fortunately for the Cats, they have senior forward Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah to stand in her way.

In her last home game on Tuesday, Kunaiyi-Akpanah had one of her best games of the season, scoring 11 points and 11 rebounds. She stayed right on par with her season average of 11.1 points and 11.2 rebounds. However, Kunaiyi-Akpanah makes her presence felt on the defensive end as well.

She leads the team with 45 blocks for the season, and ranks sixth in the Big Ten with 1.6 blocks per game. In addition to blocks, she’s also tied for fifth in the conference in steals, averaging 1.8. In a battle against one of the best offense players in the country, NU has the luxury of having one of the best defensive players in the whole conference.

Kunaiyi-Akpanah will have to be aware of foul trouble, as she also leads the team in fouls with 86. Her 86 fouls are 21 ahead of the next highest person on the team, Veronica Burton, who has 65. If Kunaiyi-Akpanah gets into foul trouble early, the Cats could struggle to contain Gustafson from having another massive scoring game.

Although NU will have to worry about stopping Gustafson, the Hawkeyes will have to try to stop Lindsey Pulliam, who was on fire in the Cats’ last game. She finished with 24 points on 9-18 shooting from the field.

With one game remaining, NU currently sits as the sixth seed in the Big Ten. However, if the Cats win and get some help from other teams, they could finish as one of the top four teams headed into the tournament.

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