Women’s Basketball: Wolf’s career game lifts Wildcats to victory over Purdue

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Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Abbie Wolf goes up for a shot. The senior center scored a career-high 24 points to lead the Cats over Purdue on Sunday.

Drew Schott, Reporter

In 2019, Purdue got the best of Northwestern. Twice.

Last January, the Wildcats lost to the Boilermakers 57-54 despite a valiant comeback attempt in the final minutes. Five weeks later, NU lost a 10-point lead and was stunned at the buzzer when Purdue guard Karissa McLaughlin nailed a 3-pointer to lift the Boilermakers to a 61-58 win.

On Sunday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena, the Cats (14-2, 4-1 Big Ten) finally flipped the script, defeating Purdue (11-6, 2-3) 61-56 for their first win over their Big Ten rival since 2016.

Led by senior center Abbie Wolf — who contributed a career-best 24 points — and a strong defensive effort that forced 18 turnovers, NU’s latest win not only locked the team into a four-way tie for first place in the Big Ten, but also likely elevated the squad into the AP Top 25.

“We’ve had great games with Purdue, and when I came into the league, they were one of the best teams in college basketball,” coach Joe McKeown said. “To beat them is hard, you (have) to beat them for 40 minutes. It’s what (we) expect when we play each other.”

In the game’s opening minutes, the Boilermakers took advantage of the Cats’ defensive gaps, firing off mid-range jumpshots and 3-pointers. NU struggled to score down low against Purdue’s aggressive defense, but senior forward Abi Scheid’s seven first-quarter points helped cut Purdue’s lead to one after ten minutes.

As the Cats trailed 21-17 early in the second quarter, McKeown subbed out the team’s leading scorer, junior guard Lindsey Pulliam — who had hit only one of her nine shots — to revamp the offense. To fill the void left by Pulliam, junior guard Jordan Hamilton stepped up.

Within seconds of entering the game, Hamilton nailed a jumpshot to cut the Boilermakers’ lead to two. Then, on the ensuing possession, she stole the ball from McLaughlin and scored a fast-break layup. Thirty-three seconds later, the junior sank a 3-pointer to help NU race to a 31-24 halftime lead.

“(We) just never wanted to be in a position where we felt like they had a chance,” Hamilton said. “We wanted to… put our foot on their neck. Being able to come in and be a spark off the bench was my mindset, just making sure that we got back into the game.”

In the second half, Wolf caught fire, scoring 11 of her 24 points during the third quarter. The Connecticut native — who grabbed 11 of the Cats’ 42 rebounds and blocked five shots — helped fuel an NU rally that extended the Cats’ lead to 18 before Purdue cut the lead to 12 at the end of the quarter.

But NU began to falter in the final ten minutes. The squad had not made a field goal since the 3:59 mark in the third quarter, allowing the Boilermakers to cut the deficit to three with under three minutes to play. However, Wolf’s tip-in off a missed shot from Pulliam gave the Cats their first basket in nearly 13 minutes and a five-point lead with 80 seconds left.

Sophomore guard Veronica Burton put the game away with two free throws.

As the Cats travel to Bloomington on Thursday to face No. 12 Indiana — one of the teams tied for first place with the Cats — the message is clear: The next few conference games will greatly impact the trajectory of their entire season.

“No days off,” Wolf said.

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Twitter: @dschott328

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