Cats’ Skid Reaches Eight (Women’s Basketball)

Matt Baker

By Matt BakerThe Daily Northwestern

With a combined 27 first-half turnovers, Northwestern and Penn State opened Thursday night’s game in State College, Penn., on a sloppy note.

But the Lady Lions capitalized where the Wildcats couldn’t, scoring 22 points off of turnovers in the opening stanza as Penn State handed NU its eighth straight loss, 85-53.

NU (6-9, 0-2 Big Ten) hung with Penn State early. Freshman Kaitlin McInerney tied the game at two with a lay-up in the game’s opening minutes. McInerney’s two free-throws moments later put the Cats down four, 12-8.

But a 13-0 run six minutes into the first half – in which NU had seven turnovers and committed five fouls – put Penn State (8-8, 1-2 ) up for good. Sophomore Erin Dickerson drained a three-pointer with 9:06 left in the first half to end the Cats’ scoring drought.

The Lady Lions went on another scoring spree moments later with an 8-0 run in a two-minute span. A behind-the-back, no-look pass from Penn State guard Mashea Williams to forward Charity Renfro put the Lady Lions up 36-13 with four minutes left in the half.

“That’s a hard hill to climb,” coach Beth Combs said. “We’ve got to put ourselves out in position where we’re playing for something at the end. We have to put our heart and soul into the first four minutes – not just the last four.”

NU’s starters struggled in the first half, being outscored by Penn State guard Kamela Gissendanner 17-15. The Lady Lions held the Cats’ two leading scorers, senior A.J. Glasauer and junior Sara Stutz, without a point until Stutz’s jumper with 2:54 left in the first half.

NU trailed Penn State 49-22 at halftime.

While NU had only three second-half turnovers, the Cats could not come back, as they spent the second half battling to keep the deficit under 30 points. A lay-up by Stutz put the Cats down 73-49 – the closest they came in the second half – with 4:21 left.

“We played with them in the second half – that was a different ballgame,” Combs said. “But we’ve got to make plays from the tip-off to put ourselves in the game.”

Stutz scored 11 of her team-high 16 points in the period, and Glasauer scored her only points on a jumper with 2:13 left in the game. Sophomore Kristin Cartwright chipped in 13 points – 11 in the second half – in 24 minutes off the bench.

Gissendanner led the Lady Lions with 23 points.

Cartwright said NU’s solid second-half performance did not make up for their poor play in the game’s opening minutes. Though she said the team is discouraged after every loss, they have not given up on their season.

“Everyone on our team knows we have the ability to be great team,” Cartwright said. “We just have to find it within ourselves. We know it’s there. We know we have the ability. We just have to bring it every night for 40 minutes.”

Combs said NU can snap its eight-game skid if it comes out with intensity in their Big Ten home opener against Iowa on Sunday.

“We’ve got to come together as a team,” Combs said. “The players have to understand that this is their team and their time. We can get it done, but we need to regroup, refocus and come ready to play Sunday.”

Reach Matt Baker at [email protected]