Women’s Basketball: Northwestern gets statement win against No. 12 Maryland


(Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman). Northwestern celebrates on the bench. The Wildcats upset No. 12 Maryland on Tuesday.

Charlie Goldsmith, Reporter

Coach Joe McKeown has always promised this was coming, even when Northwestern was at the bottom of the Big Ten standings. McKeown said it wouldn’t take long for the Wildcats to prove themselves as one of the elite teams in the conference.

Tuesday was the day that promise came true.

NU (12-1, 2-0 Big Ten) beat the No. 12 Terrapins (10-3, 1-1), 81-58, giving the Cats their signature win of the last few seasons. By beating the reigning conference champions, NU showed just how special a season it’s having.

“Every game we come in with a chip on our shoulder and we know people don’t really respect us,” junior guard Lindsey Pulliam said. “And that’s all good for us because we’re going to keep doing what we do.”

NU hadn’t won 12 or more games in the first two months of the season since 2016 and had lost all seven games against the Terrapins since Maryland joined the Big Ten in 2014. Last year, Maryland beat the Cats by 15 points en route to winning the conference championship.

Then at Welsh Ryan Arena on Tuesday, the Cats routed the highest ranked team in the Big Ten and showed how much better this year’s team is than the last few that came before it. NU had already beaten Duke and Marquette this season, but Tuesday’s win over a top-15 team indicated how high the team’s ceiling is.

Pulliam again led the Cats in scoring, finishing the game with 24 points. But NU won the game on the defensive end against one of the best scoring teams in the country.

The Terrapins average 86.5 points per game, but the Cats held them to 28 points below that average. NU forced a season-high 24 turnovers and kept Maryland from making a single three-point shot until the fourth quarter.

The Terrapins had scored fewer than 60 points in a game only twice all season, but NU kept Maryland’s offense and its star player in check. Senior guard Kaila Charles ––the Big Ten’s Preseason Player of the Year –– had just 10 points. The defense also forced Charles to turn the ball over five times.

“Defense is something we really take pride in,” sophomore guard Veronica Burton said. “Any chance we get we’re tipping the ball and being in the right spot at the right time so I think just trusting our defense and trusting our teammates was what allowed us to be good.”

The Cats led 18-6 after the first quarter and put the game away with an 11-0 run shortly after halftime. NU led by as many as 26 points in the second half and rested its best players down the stretch in the fourth quarter.

Burton had one of the best games of her career as the Cats’ starting point guard, scoring a career-high 23 points and adding six steals and three assists.

Led by Burton and Pulliam, NU handled the Terrapins’ pressing defense and prevented any comeback in the second half. McKeown said that ability to respond to adversity bodes well for the team’s NCAA Tournament aspirations.

“We showed tonight that we can defend some of the best players in the country and our (ability) to be unselfish really holds up,” McKeown said. “We just have some really competitive kids.”

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Twitter: @2021_Charlie