Cats end road slate winless (Women’s Basketball)

Nina Mandell

After watching her starters struggle throughout the first half, Northwestern coach Beth Combs didn’t know what to do other than shuffle her lineup.

The Wildcats (2-13, 5-23) received a jolt from their inexperienced bench but it wasn’t enough as the Badgers (5-10, 11-14) never trailed and won, 70-63.

“The younger players really stepped up,” NU coach Beth Combs said. “It was the most fun I’ve had coaching all season.”

As three Cats’ starters watched from the bench in the second half, the younger lineup kept pace with the Badgers but couldn’t make up for a slow first half. NU has failed to notch a conference road win this season.

The younger Cats couldn’t stop a barrage of Wisconsin 3-pointers. The Badgers shot 38 percent from 3-point range. While NU converted more field goals than Wisconsin, Stephanie Rich and Ashley Josephson shot better from beyond the arc than inside it. The Badgers’ Jolene Anderson added three 3-pointers. Rich, Josephson and Anderson combined for 21 points on 3-pointers. Anderson did the most damage, finishing the game with 28 points, six rebounds and two assists.

After watching Anderson shred NU’s defense during the first half, freshman guard Breanne Smilie couldn’t bear watching from the bench.

Smilie, who averages fewer than ten minutes a game, said she doesn’t know if the younger players will receive more playing time after Wednesday’s game but was happy to earn some respect for her faltering team.

“It’s frustrating, especially for this game,” she said. “We knew we could beat Wisconsin, we knew we shouldn’t be losing.”

Starters Sarah Stutz and Ifeoma Okonkwo played during the second half and both finished with 14 points each. Freshman Melissa Miller had 10 points and six rebounds. Stutz and Smilie were the only Cats to play more than 30 minutes. Starting point guard Samantha McComb saw 17 minutes.

Despite lacking some of its most experienced shooters, NU shot 40 percent from the floor — an improvement from previous subpar shooting.

Combs was pleased with the effort from her bench, but she’s disappointed her team finished the Big Ten regular season without a road win.

“Our seniors were really not there for us today, ” Combs said. “It’s nice to see some young kids step up.”

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