Women’s Basketball: Northwestern top team in Big Ten after beating No. 15 Indiana

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Katie Pach/The Daily Northwestern

Abi Scheid shoots a three. Northwestern has risen to the top of the Big Ten standings this season.

Charlie Goldsmith, Sports Editor

Before Northwestern upset Indiana and before the Wildcats became the first-place team in the Big Ten, Veronica Burton fell down to the court with her right arm bracing the fall. Down three points with 28 seconds left, the sophomore forward just helped NU get a pivotal stop and made an and-one layup on the other end of the floor.

But she still had to get up and make the free throw to tie the score and send the game to overtime. Burton said that hit left her sore the rest of the game, but she made the free throw and scored four more points in the extra period to lead NU to its most unlikely win of the season.

The Cats have faced adversity several times this season, and Thursday they trailed by 12 points in the middle of the fourth quarter. This time, it was Burton who kept NU’s NCAA Tournament aspirations on track.

Burton scored 15 points to lead the Cats (15-2, 5-1 Big Ten) to a 71-69 win over the No. 15 Hoosiers (14-4, 4-2), making NU the first place team in the conference.

“I knew I didn’t want to go through all that to lose that game,” Burton said. “No matter what, no matter how I was feeling, I had to put them in the net. We all were laying it out there on the line.”

The Cats haven’t made the NCAA Tournament in four seasons, and last year they lost four of their five conference games decided by five or fewer points. Coach Joe McKeown said NU’s upset over Indiana was another sign of how much the team has improved over the last 12 months.

Seven days after junior guard Lindsey Pulliam made a buzzer-beating layup to beat Minnesota, the Cats staged a 12-point fourth quarter comeback against the highest ranked Big Ten team and pulled away in overtime.

“Throughout the whole time, no matter what the score was, we never really gave up,” Burton said. “I’m not sure there was one specific turning point, but there was never a time we doubted we were going to win the game. As you saw this entire season, no matter what the score is, we know it’s never over.”

After struggling to score during the second and third quarter, NU trailed the Hoosiers 57-45 with 7:22 left in the fourth. The Cats went on a 17-5 run over the rest of regulation, with Burton making the and-one that sent the game to overtime.

The extra period came down to the last 40 seconds, when Burton stole the ball on defense, drove to the rim and drew another foul. She hit both of those crucial free throws as well to give the Cats a two-point victory.

NU entered the game just outside the NCAA top-25, and the win will likely vault the Cats into next week’s top 25 poll. Even though NU hasn’t been ranked since January 2016, McKeown said the team is capable of accomplishing even more the rest of the season.

“Our league is crazy one through fourteen, so I don’t really get caught up in that and I don’t want our team to get caught up in that,” McKeown said. “But we deserve some of the accolades that are coming our way.”

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Twitter: @2021_charlie

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