Confidence shaken in loss to Buckeyes (Women’s basketball)

Nina Mandell

The Wildcats entered Sunday’s game against the No. 3 Buckeyes thinking they could play with anyone after losing by just four to No. 21 Iowa.

But Sunday, with a crowd of 5,052 watching, an early Ohio State shooting barrage set the tone for the Cats’ 71-59 loss and showed Northwestern coach Beth Combs her team needed more than extra defensive drills to play with the best.

“We just kind of self-destructed,” she said. “We’ve got to know that we can play with anyone.”

After hanging with Iowa on Jan. 16, NU trailed Ohio State by as much as 31. The Buckeyes (18-2, 5-1 Big Ten) gave the Cats their fourth straight loss.

NU (4-15, 1-5) has not won a game since beating Michigan on Jan. 6, and just three minutes into Sunday’s game it was clear the Cats wouldn’t be beating the Buckeyes.

Before the Cats could run their offense, Ohio State jumped to a 5-0 lead in the first minute. NU freshman Melissa Miller stopped the run with a layup and the teams traded baskets for about two minutes, with NU narrowing the margin to four.

Freshman Sara Stutz said any confidence the team gained by coming close to Iowa was shaken.

“I don’t think it’s that we came out intimidated,” she said. “They hit a few shots right off the bat, and we couldn’t execute.”

The Cats regained composure and stayed close for the rest of the half until Jessica Davenport and Brandie Hoskins led Ohio State on a 9-0 run in the last two minutes of the first half.

And that was the closer half.

Ohio State jetted to a 19-point lead in the first five minutes of the second half. The Cats were down by as many as 31 points, but saved themselves from an embarrassing score when they closed the lead to 11 against the Buckeyes’ second stringers.

Ifeoma Okonkwo scored 15 of her team-high 20 points in the second half, including six of NU’s nine points in a 9-0 run during the last three minutes of the game.

“It was just too little too late,” Combs said.

Despite the huge scoring margins in the second half, Combs said the Cats lost the game at the end of the first half.

“I’m more disappointed in our first half effort,” she said. “We played a good 16 minutes and then just fell apart at the end and didn’t get it back.”

Davenport and Hoskins proved to be troublesome for the Cats. Davenport, who entered the game ranked third in the conference in scoring, was kept under her average but still had 14 points. Hoskins, a sophomore guard, burned the Cats as well, scoring 18 points in 26 minutes.

“They just have so many weapons,” Combs said. “They can go outside, hit 3s, go inside — they just do anything they want. Ohio State is a great ballclub.”

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