Women’s Basketball: With 22 points from both Burton and Pulliam, Northwestern beats Michigan State 76-48


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Veronica Burton drives up the court. The sophomore guard scored a game-leading 22 points and also had six steals and eight rebounds on Thursday.

Drew Schott, Reporter

Women’s Basketball

Throughout the season, No. 22 Northwestern has looked like the best team in the Big Ten.

But in the opening minutes of their conference matchup against Michigan State, the Wildcats didn’t seem like the squad with six conference wins and a Top 25 ranking.

Missed mid-range jumpers, overthrown passes and numerous blown layups by NU allowed the Spartans to take a 5-2 lead with nearly six minutes remaining in the opening quarter. But by the end of the first, the Cats completely flipped the script, going on a 15-2 run that put the game out of reach for Michigan State.

“We were a little jumpy,” coach Joe McKeown said. “We missed a couple layups and some wide-open looks. But we… settle(d) down a little bit and soon we were knocking down the same shots that we missed. We really got some momentum.”

NU (17-2, 7-1 Big Ten), who played the next thirty minutes like the Big Ten’s top squad, beat the Spartans (11-8, 4-4) 76-48, winning six road games in a row for the first time in over two decades and ending Michigan State’s undefeated home record.

Junior guard Lindsey Pulliam and sophomore guard Veronica Burton led the way with 22 points each, and the Cats are now tied at the top of the Big Ten as they head into a crucial road game against No. 20 Maryland on Sunday.

Pulliam proved at the Breslin Center why she is one of NU’s best scorers. In the second quarter, the junior drained three fadeaway jumpers in a row and had 11 points by the end of the half. Meanwhile, Burton — who also had 11 points after twenty minutes — helped anchor the Cats defensively, grabbing four steals and six rebounds by halftime.

Up 33-23 after 20 minutes, NU broke away in the third quarter.

The Cats went on a 26-9 run that started with six straight points from senior center Abbie Wolf — who finished with 14 — and saw Pulliam and Burton score seven and nine points, respectively. The Big Ten’s second-best scoring defense went into high gear, limiting Michigan State to shooting just 26.7 percent from the field and go 0 for 6 from behind the arc. The team also forced five Spartan turnovers.

Up by 27 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, McKeown gave his bench players significant minutes for the second game in a row as NU cruised to its 28-point win.

Burton, who was named to the Naismith Women’s Defensive Player of the Year Midseason Watch List early Thursday, certainly performed like one of America’s best defenders. On top of her 22 points, she had a team-high six steals, along with eight rebounds and two blocks. Burton said the award didn’t create any additional pressure to play well against the Spartans.

“I treat every game the same,” Burton said. “I come in with the same mindset. Stay the course on the defensive end. I did what I had to do to get a W tonight.”

The last time the Cats and the Terrapins played, NU upset then-No. 12 Maryland 81-58 at Welsh-Ryan Arena in December. As the Cats travel to College Park on Sunday with Maryland ranked second in the conference, the winner of this Big Ten matchup will likely decide who heads the conference. The last time the Cats and the Terrapins played, NU upset then-No. 12 Maryland 81-55 at Welsh-Ryan Arena in December.

Pulliam says NU can’t be distracted by the Terrapins so they can continue to improve before they take the court.

“We’re not satisfied with what we’ve done yet,” Pulliam said. (We need) to focus on us and not who we’re playing.”

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