Women’s Basketball: Last-second shot from Pulliam lifts Northwestern to victory over Minnesota

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Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Lindsey Pulliam looks to make a move. The junior guard hit a buzzer-beater layup to lead her team over Minnesota.

Drew Schott, Reporter


Women’s Basketball


For much of Northwestern’s matchup against Minnesota, it wasn’t Lindsey Pulliam’s night.

Against the Golden Gophers’ 2-3 zone defense, the junior guard failed to score both in the paint and from behind the arc, going 4-for-16 overall from the field.

Her off-target shooting was rectified by her final two points of the night. Tied with Minnesota at 54 with 4.7 seconds remaining, sophomore guard Veronica Burton drove to the middle of the paint and quickly fired a pass to Pulliam, who nailed a contested layup with under a second left to give the Wildcats a 56-54 win.

NU’s (13-2, 3-1 Big Ten) victory over the Golden Gophers (11-4, 1-3) — a little more than a week after its upset of defending Big Ten champion Maryland — showcased the team’s ability to compete in one of the nation’s toughest conferences and potentially be in the running for the Big Ten title.

“I don’t know if there’s poetic justice, but we were in the same position last year here. Four seconds (left) and couldn’t finish, so it feels good to get out of here with a W,” coach Joe McKeown said.

The Cats’ first win against Minnesota since 2015 was orchestrated by none other than the team’s own Gopher State native. Senior forward Abi Scheid was NU’s most efficient scorer, finishing with 24 points on 10 of 17 attempts and shooting 75 percent from beyond the perimeter.

“Minnesota is my home,” Scheid said. “I always love coming back here and playing in The Barn in front of my friends and family. Today, it’s exciting … knowing you have the game you want.”

The Cats struggled in the game’s opening minutes, as Minnesota’s aggressive zone defense failed to create opportunities for close shots, causing the team to shoot numerous off-target three pointers. However, NU’s control of the turnover margin paid dividends down the stretch.

Despite trailing by one point at the end of both the first and second quarter, the Cats — who have the second-best turnover margin in the conference — forced 13 first-half turnovers from the Big Ten’s third-highest scoring offense.

Thanks to their strong defensive performance — anchored by senior center Abbie Wolf, who had 5 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals — NU’s offense heated up in the second half. Led by Scheid, the Cats went on a 16-4 run during the third quarter, while also forcing six Golden Gopher turnovers.

A step-back 3-pointer by Burton in the final seconds of the quarter gave NU an eight-point lead and the momentum heading into the final game’s ten minutes.

Minnesota wasn’t done fighting. A late fourth quarter surge led by senior guard Jasmine Brunson brought the Golden Gophers to within three, causing the team to foul Burton with 19.4 seconds left to create a chance to tie the game.

Burton, who with one free throw could’ve made it a two-possession game, missed both, giving Minnesota a scoring opportunity, which concluded with Brunson draining a 3-pointer from the right side of the perimeter with four seconds left. But Pulliam ended the Golden Gophers’ comeback bid seconds later.

The Cats, who now are ranked second in the Big Ten with Nebraska, face Purdue on Sunday at Welsh-Ryan Arena. McKeown said he hopes the momentum from NU’s victory translates to its next conference matchup.

“We’ve got a big one obviously Sunday against Purdue,” McKeown said. “It’s a gauntlet in the Big Ten and we’ve just gotta be ready to play every night.”

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