Women’s Basketball: Northwestern relies on defense once again in win over Boston College


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Veronica Burton attempts a layup. The sophomore guard had a clutch steal for the Cats to help NU pull out the victory.

Carlos Stinson-Maas, Reporter

Women’s Basketball

With 12 seconds remaining in Wednesday night’s game against Boston College, Northwestern looked to be in danger of losing a close game for the second time this week.

The Wildcats led by three and needed a defensive stop. They got one from sophomore guard Veronica Burton, who came up with a clutch steal to seal the game for NU.

Burton’s steal was the 21st turnover forced by the Cats, as wednesday’s win marked NU’s fifth game this season with 20 or more forced turnovers.

Through seven games, the Cats have a turnover margin of +8, good for third in the Big Ten. They’ve forced more turnovers than their opponent in every game this season, helping them to the third best scoring defense in the conference.

This defensive dominance builds on the team’s success from last season. Coach Joe McKeown claimed that NU had the best defense in the Big Ten last season — the Cats led the conference in turnover margin and finished second in scoring defense.

Offensively, however, NU is struggling. Last year, the Cats finished in the bottom five in the conference in scoring offense, field goal percentage and 3-point shooting.

This year they’ve performed even worse.

So far, NU is 13th in the Big Ten in scoring offense, 3-point shooting and rebounding offense. The Cats also rank last in field goal percentage, shooting an abysmal 39.5%.

Against Boston College, the Eagles topped the Cats in field goal percentage, three-point shooting, and assists — they also outrebounded NU 53-29, the Cats’ worst rebounding differential since December of last year.

Yet, NU left Welsh-Ryan arena with a win thanks to a turnover margin of +15, the Cats’ best since December of last year.

Thankfully for NU, its defensive prowess was just enough to overcome an atrocious night offensively.

“Offensively sometimes we’re not as fluid,” McKeown said. “We need to get big stops, which we got tonight.”

While the Cats’ defensive success is promising, they’ll need to play better offensively once Big Ten play starts. Boston College currently ranks 11th in the ACC, and NU will need to beat much tougher opponents in conference play.

To do so, they’ll need more consistent offense from their starters. In Wednesday’s win the Cats relied entirely on junior guard Lindsey Pulliam, who scored 25. The rest of the team shot less than 29% from the field.

“Just give her the ball,” McKeown said, referring to Pulliam. “She can bail me out anytime she wants.”

Although Pulliam’s performance has been impressive, she won’t be able to bail the team out every game. If NU wants to beat top opponents, they’ll need efficient offense from the entire team.

The Cats are still playing without junior guard Jordan Hamilton, who’s now missed five games this year. She can be a valuable distributor and scoring threat when she returns.

Until then, NU will have to keep relying on their staunch defense to help them win close games.

“It’s just grinding it out on defense,” Pulliam said. “I had all the confidence that we were gonna grind it out cause that’s what we do.”

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