Women’s Basketball: Veronica Burton’s late heroics give Northwestern overtime victory over No. 15 Indiana

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Women’s Basketball: Veronica Burton’s late heroics give Northwestern overtime victory over No. 15 Indiana

Veronica Burton dribbles the ball. She finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists in Thursday’s win.

Veronica Burton dribbles the ball. She finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists in Thursday’s win.

Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Veronica Burton dribbles the ball. She finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists in Thursday’s win.

Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Veronica Burton dribbles the ball. She finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists in Thursday’s win.

Drew Schott, Reporter

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Down by three to No. 15 Indiana with nearly 30 seconds left, Northwestern needed a defensive stop.

And sophomore guard Veronica Burton delivered.

As the Hoosiers’ leading scorer Ali Patberg lost control of her dribble, sophomore guard Sydney Wood picked up the loose ball and quickly passed it to Burton, who raced down the court and laid up a shot before being fouled by Indiana’s Jaelynn Penn.

While the Massachusetts native fell to the ground, her shot slowly rolled around the tip of the rim before falling into the basket, cutting the Wildcats’ deficit to one and giving her a chance to tie the game. As Burton nailed her ensuing free throw to make it 62 apiece, she put the finishing touches on a 17-5 run for NU that sent the squad’s biggest game of the season into overtime.

“No matter what the score was, we never really gave up,” Burton said. “There was never a time where we doubted we were going to lose the game. We know it’s never over until the buzzer sounds.”

Burton’s stellar play continued into the final five minutes, as her two free throws with 33 seconds left in overtime gave the Cats a lead it would never relinquish. NU’s 71-69 win over the ranked Hoosiers not only elevated the Cats to a first-place tie in the Big Ten, but also likely will lead to their first appearance in the AP Top 25 this season.

Without Burton’s clutch performance, NU may not have prevailed in its first road win against a Top 15 opponent since 1994.

“We just dug in in overtime,” coach Joe McKeown said. “The huge play Veronica made… just to keep the ball in play is incredible. A lot of teams that didn’t show our toughness would’ve gotten beat. But this team is tough… they’re relentless.”

Coming into last night’s game at Assembly Hall, the sophomore was performing strongly on both sides of the ball. This season, Burton has averaged a career-high 8.7 points, led the team in steals, and is currently third on the squad in rebounds.

Burton had a quiet first quarter and missed her first three shots as NU’s early nine-point lead turned into a 31-24 halftime deficit.

Over the next ten minutes, Burton’s two steals and four points weren’t enough to slow the conference’s third-best scoring offense, as Indiana had a ten-point lead into the final quarter.

Despite the Cats facing a 12 point deficit in the middle of the fourth, Burton shined. The sophomore grabbed three rebounds — including the one that sent NU to overtime — and made a stellar block on Hoosier forward Brenna Wise.

She also helped stabilize NU’s offense late in the game as leading scorer Lindsey Pulliam struggled from the field and senior center Abbie Wolf fouled out.

Burton finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and five steals — a performance that helped lift the Cats to their biggest win of the season and into national recognition.

The guard said the team’s “underdog” mentality has guided them to upset wins and the top of the Big Ten. But she emphasized that to continue winning hard-fought games, the team must stay resilient.

“It’s definitely a great accomplishment for us to be there right now,” Burton said. “But I think it’s definitely harder to stay there so we got to focus on each game as they come and not really get ahead of ourselves.”

Email: drewschott2023@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @dschott328

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