Few fans across the country know last-second tension quite like Wildcats fans.
Despite a late bid for comeback, Northwestern women’s basketball ended up falling to Purdue 57-54 Sunday afternoon. The defeat was the Wildcats’ (9-7, 2-3 B1G) first conference home loss of the season, while it gave the Boilermakers (13-5, 4-1 B1G) their third straight win. The Wildcats’ top scorer Lindsey Pulliam led the way with 15 points on 7-for-15 shooting, while Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah came up with 13 points and 14 rebounds, including eight points in the first two quarters.
For much of the game, the Wildcats had to play from behind. A rough second quarter on 3-for-17 shooting (with just two points for most of it) put Northwestern in a 11-point hole heading into halftime. However, from then on the team would outscore Purdue, and the purple-clad crowd at Welsh-Ryan grew loud. Much of the fourth quarter saw Purdue ahead with a slim lead, and eventually the ’Cats had their chance to strike.
A contested Pulliam shot with 19 seconds left cut the lead to one, and moments later a bad Purdue inbounds pass resulted in a turnover. With the game on the line, Pulliam went for a clean jumper close-up to the basket, but the bid came up short. Two successful free throws for the Boilermakers and a failed last-second three for the ’Cats sealed the game shut.
Though Pulliam couldn’t get the finish that she wanted, she was adamant about not letting the play get to her.
“I’ll shoot it again next game,” she said. “I mean, short memory. Every game. It didn’t go down, but next game we’re gonna come out hard, aggressive, and I’m gonna shoot it again.”
Purdue had a preference for three-pointers during the game, not being afraid to take them. That plan initially worked well for them as they started 4-of-8, but a poor spell the rest of the way saw them finish just 5-for-22. Northwestern attempted threes only twice late into the second quarter. Gradually, however, they began to threaten beyond the arc, and ended 5-for-13.
“We addressed [Purdue’s lead] at halftime,” said head coach Joe McKeown. “We thought our players responded, and came out and played a great second half, but we can’t dig holes like that against a quality team.”
Though Wildcats came close to winning, there were a few notable missteps. They struggled to handle Purdue in the post, who threatened with great accuracy for much of the game. Pulliam missed two crucial free throws with five minutes left in the game that would have brought the score to within one, and the team overall shot just 3-for-7 from the line.
Northwestern’s next match is at Indiana (15-2, 4-1 B1G) on January 16.