Boilermakers win, but angry (Women’s Basketball)

Nina Mandell

The Wildcats hung with their second top-25 team at Welsh-Ryan Arena in as many games Sunday, but Northwestern couldn’t complete a second upset, losing 68-65 to Purdue.

NU succumbed to the Boilermakers, who are ranked 24th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, after the Cats’ comeback attempt sputtered with three consecutive scoreless possessions with fewer than two minutes remaining.

“Purdue just knows how to win more than we do,” NU coach Beth Combs said. “I think that’s what it came down to. They were able to finish.”

But the Cats (5-17, 2-7 Big Ten) did give themselves a chance to send the game to overtime.

Guard Melissa Culver took on the entire Purdue defense and finished off her drive to pull NU within two points with 18 seconds to go.

After a 1-of-2 trip to the foul line for Purdue (12-8, 5-4), Culver’s number was called again.

But Purdue’s press took precious time off the clock, and NU had to hurry to get into its set offense. By the time the play came around to Culver, she only had time to rush a 3-point attempt that clanked off the rim.

Despite the loss, NU players said there were plenty of positives.

NU forward Suzanne Morrison played her most minutes since returning from the injured list Jan. 16 against Iowa. She scored 18 points in 21 minutes.

After her team’s 59-48 win against No. 22 Penn State on Thursday and another strong showing Sunday, Morrison said her team was getting closer to becoming a presence in the Big Ten.

“We made a statement throughout the league,” she said. “It makes it a little easier to walk on the court with a bit of an attitude and start the game off right.”

But starting the game off right is something else the Cats said they need to work on. The Boilermakers flew to a 13-4 lead in the first five minutes.

Purdue coach Kristy Curry said the first four minutes was the only time she saw any good play from her team.

“I’ve had enough,” she said. “Ask (the team). Coach isn’t very happy today.”

NU center Sarah Kwasinski was a large part of Curry’s frustration. The junior had five blocks, single-handedly tying Purdue, which has the sixth-most blocks in Division I. Kwasinski also had 13 points and five rebounds.

NU junior Ifeoma Okonkwo followed her 19-point performance against Penn State with three points on 0-for-5 shooting. But the forward pulled in a team-high six rebounds and had three assists.

The Daily’s Nick Collins contributed to this story.

Reach Nina Mandell at [email protected].