WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Purdue Sports) — Sophomore Karissa McLaughlin hit nine triples Sunday against visiting Northwestern at Mackey Arena, but none larger than her last as the step-back 3 with 1.4 seconds left sealed up a 61-58 victory over the Wildcats. McLaughlin scored a career-high 28 points as she knocked down 9-of-11 from 3-point range and the Boilermakers improved to 17-11 overall and 8-7 in Big Ten Conference play.
"Sometimes you need special players to do special things in order to win games at this level," said Boilermaker head coach Sharon Versyp, who took over the No. 5 spot on the Big Ten win's list with her 137th career conference victory. "That's what Karissa was tonight. She was special to another level."
After starting the game 2-of-4 from behind the arc, Mclaughlin finished the game with seven straight triples, including 6-of-6 in the second half. Her nine 3's are tied for second-most in a game all-time at Purdue, matching Courtney Moses' total from the opening round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament against South Dakota State. McLaughlin played her 12th complete game of the season, adding three rebounds and two assists in the win.
The fire started early in the third quarter as McLaughlin answered an 8-2 Northwestern run to start the second half with the first of three straight triples, pulling Purdue within four, 42-38, with 4:31 left in the period. The blaze spread to junior teammate Dominique Oden as she hit the next two 3's, beating the shot clock on back-to-back possessions to tie things up at 44-44, and freshman Kayana Traylor cashed in an and-one to finish the third all tied at 47-47.
The fourth quarter was one of runs, both teams taking big swings and connecting to sway the momentum back and forth. McLaughlin hit a 3, only to see Northwestern get two straight buckets to go ahead 51-50 with 6:04 left. The eighth triple from McLaughlin sparked an 8-0 run to put the Boilermakers ahead 58-51 with 3:21 left, but then junior Ae'Rianna Harris picked up her fourth personal foul and had to head to the bench, which changed the game.
Northwestern took advantage of Harris' absence, going on a 7-0 run of its own and knotting the score at 58-58 with 36 seconds left to play. Bleeding the shot clock all the way to the end, McLaughlin attacked the basket and tried to thread the needle to an open Harris under the basket, but the Wildcats kicked the pass away with four seconds left and washed the shot clock for the Boilermakers. The rest was history as McLaughlin came off a double screen, put down a one-dribble, step-back move and hit nothing but net for the final difference. Northwestern was given 1.4 seconds left on the clock to attempt a tie, but the final heave rimmed out as Purdue picked up its second win over the Wildcats this season and moved them into a four-way tie for fifth place in the conference standings.
Oden was the only other Boilermaker in double figures, finishing with 10 points, seven rebounds and three steals, while Harris finished with eight points, 12 rebounds, three assists and four blocked shots. Harris moved into a tie for 10th place on the Big Ten's career blocked shots list, matching Illinois' Karisma Penn with 271. She remains 10 shy of the Boilermakers' career record, held by assistant coach Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton. Traylor also posted a big night for the Boilermakers, turning in eight points and five assists in 26 minutes off the bench.
Sophomore Lindsey Pulliam paced Northwestern with 16 points as the Wildcats fell to 15-11 overall and 8-7 in conference play. Freshman Veronica Burton stood out as well with seven points, seven assists, seven rebounds and three steals.
Northwestern and Purdue are tied with Ohio State and Minnesota at fifth in the conference, just a game behind Michigan in fourth place and a half-game ahead of Michigan State in ninth. The Boilermakers are back in action Thursday on the road, heading to Penn State for a 7 p.m. ET tip at the Bryce Jordan Center.