EVANSTON, Ill. — The University of Wisconsin women’s basketball team was staring its first Big Ten Conference victory in the face here Thursday night.
And then the Badgers blinked.
Northwestern put together a 15-4 finishing run to pull away to a 69-60 victory over the Badgers at Evanston Township High School, the Wildcats’ temporary home while Welsh-Ryan Arena is under renovation.
Sophomore Suzanne Gilreath scored 17 points to lead the Badgers (7-11, 0-5 Big Ten), who have lost six straight. She was perfect in five tries from 3-point range and her triple with 4:15 left in the game staked UW to a 56-54 lead.
But as has been their habit this season, the Badgers then hit a scoring drought as the Wildcats ran off 12 unanswered points to put the game away.
Freshman Jordan Hamilton scored a season-high 22 points to lead the Wildcats (9-10, 2-3). Junior Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah grabbed 18 rebounds to help Northwestern to a 36-23 advantage on the boards. She also had 11 points for her 10th double-double of the season.
Junior Cayla McMorris, who returned to the starting lineup for the first time since missing three games because of personal reasons, scored 13 points despite playing just seven minutes in the first half because of foul trouble. Junior Marsha Howard also scored 13 points before fouling out in the final seconds.
The Badgers led by as many as eight points in the first half, opening up a 23-15 lead with a 12-3 run to start the second quarter. Gilreath and freshman Niya Beverley each scored five points during that run.
UW led 30-25 at halftime, but Northwestern caught up midway through the third quarter and opened up a 49-44 lead on a three-point play by Hamilton in the opening moments of the fourth quarter.
Howard answered with five straight points for UW and the Badgers were able to regain the lead 56-54 on Gilreath’s fourth 3-pointer.
But the Badgers then went scoreless for nearly four minutes, while sophomore Bryana Hopkins scored five points and Hamilton four to spark the Wildcats’ decisive 12-0 run and extend their winning streak over UW to nine games.
The Badgers return home to play Penn State (10-8, 1-4) on Sunday at 1 p.m.