Women’s Basketball: Lindsey Pulliam scores season-high 27 points as Northwestern wins Big Ten opener


(Daily file photo by Katie Pach). Lindsey Pulliam drives the lane. The junior guard scored a season-high 27 points Saturday.

Charlie Goldsmith, Reporter

Almost two years ago to the day, Lindsey Pulliam went to Champaign, Illinois and returned to Northwestern with the first Big Ten win of her career. While the Wildcats won that game by 15, Pulliam missed nine of her 13 shots and struggled, like most freshmen do playing on the road early in their careers.

Back at the State Farm Center on Saturday, the junior guard showed how much has changed over the last two years.

Pulliam had a season-high 27 points in the Cats’ (11-1, 1-0 Big Ten) 77-50 win over Illinois (9-3, 0-1), scoring more than 25 in a game for the fourth time this season. Pulliam has been NU’s leading scorer all year, and she played to her reputation as a preseason first team all Big Ten player in the Cats’ first conference game of the year.

“They tried to keep me from getting the basketball, they tried to face guard me a little bit,” Pulliam said. “But there wasn’t much they could do.”

When the rest of NU’s starters couldn’t find open shots against the Fighting Illini’s zone in the first half, Pulliam led the Cats out of a slow start. She had 8 points in the first quarter, hitting four jumpers in the opening ten minutes.

After Pulliam’s hot start, Illinois changed up its defense by sending multiple defenders at Pulliam and trapping her whenever she had the ball. But in the third quarter, she responded by hitting some of the most contested shots she’s taken all season.

Pulliam started off the stretch by hitting a 3-pointer from the left corner with a defender in her face as she shot. She followed that by making a midrange jumper from the top of the key, despite taking a hit to the arm as she shot the ball. On the next possession, the Fighting Illini double-teamed Pulliam, but the junior guard dished it off to sophomore forward Sydney Wood underneath the rim.

As more jumpers started falling, NU had an easier time finding their post players open at the rim. Senior center Abbie Wolf finished with 18 points on just 13 shots, and senior forward Abi Scheid had 11.

The Cats led by just five points at halftime, but their strong offensive showing in the second half helped them build a 19-point lead by the end of the third quarter.

“They put multiple people on (Pulliam), but we were able to get her open coming off screens,” coach Joe McKeown said. “We were able to stretch them out so they really couldn’t stop everything.”

The road for the Cats gets more difficult from here, as they face No. 12 Maryland at home in three days. The Terrapins have been the best team in the Big Ten since they joined the conference in 2014, but Pulliam said NU’s conference opener was another example of the team’s potential going forward.

“It’s just getting started now with Big Ten play,” Pulliam said. “It’s a really great start, and it gives us even more confidence going to play Maryland.”

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