Women’s Basketball: Northwestern to continue conference play against Michigan State


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Lindsey Pulliam takes a layup. The junior guard has led Northwestern to a strong start to Big Ten play.

Drew Schott, Reporter

Women’s Basketball

Not that long ago, there weren’t many people who believed in Northwestern.

On Oct. 21, the 14 women’s basketball coaches of the Big Ten and a select group of media members released their preseason conference rankings and predictions for the All-Big Ten Team. Despite junior guard Lindsey Pulliam appearing on the All-Big Ten ballot for both the coaches and the media, the Wildcats were not selected as one of the top five conference teams by either poll.

Three months later, No. 22 NU looks like the best team in the conference.

Currently on a four-game win streak, the Cats (16-2, 6-1 Big Ten) have already upset No. 12 Maryland and No. 15 Indiana. NU is tied with No. 19 Iowa — a team it lost to by 26 in early January — at the top of the Big Ten for the second week in a row.

This week, the Cats play three conference games, including a rematch against the Terrapins, who are currently ranked No. 20. But first, NU will face Michigan State (11-7, 4-3) on Thursday and try to reach six straight road wins for the first time in more than two decades.

Going into East Lansing, coach Joe McKeown said that the Cats can’t take their foot off the gas.

“Our league is crazy — one through fourteen,” McKeown said. “I don’t really get caught up on that and I don’t want our team to get caught up. (They) just have to stay grounded, stay humble.”

NU and Michigan State are both going into the matchup with a lot of momentum. The Cats are a week removed from upsetting a Top 15 team in the Hoosiers and beating Penn State by 26 points on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Spartans upset Rutgers — a team that was tied with the Cats and Hawkeyes at the top of the Big Ten standings last week— by 11 points on Monday.

Currently tied for third in the conference, Michigan State boasts a strong offense that averages 73 points a game and is led by sophomore guard Nia Clouden. Clouden, the Big Ten’s eighth-leading scorer, averages 15.4 points a game and has the Big Ten’s third-highest free throw percentage at 80.9%.

But NU fields the Big Ten’s second-best scoring defense, only giving up 54.4 points per game.

“Our key emphasis was ball pressure,” sophomore guard Jordan Hamilton said. “We just… make them frazzled. Once we saw that they were starting to fold, we just kept on applying (pressure) and that eventually led to a win.”

But in this game, Michigan State has one thing that NU doesn’t: home-court advantage. The Spartans are undefeated at the Breslin Center this season, and last year the squad upset No. 3 Oregon, No. 16 Iowa and No. 18 Minnesota on their home floor.

Despite their recent success, sophomore guard Veronica Burton said the team isn’t looking at itself any differently.

“We all just know we’re the underdogs,” sophomore guard Veronica Burton said. “That just really pushes us and we’re all just motivated. We just really trust each other and… play for each other. We’re really resilient.”

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