Buzzer Beating Heartbreak (Women’s Basketball)

Matt Baker and Matt Baker

By Matt BakerThe Daily Northwestern

After Sunday’s heartbreaking, two-point loss at home against Iowa, Northwestern’s game against Minnesota Thursday was supposed to be about learning how to win close games.

But when the Wildcats tied the game at 63 with 28 seconds left, NU fell back on its old habits.

Minnesota’s Emily Fox stole the ball from NU’s Nadia Bibbs and nailed a buzzer beater from the top of the key with 0.2 seconds left to hand the Cats their 10th-straight loss, 65-63 at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

“It’s frustrating because we were right there,” senior A.J. Glasauer said. “It was our game to win – we were up by (seven), and we let it slip away.”

NU (6-11, 0-4 Big Ten) fell behind early as the Golden Gophers (11-6, 3-2) forced quick turnovers to take an 18-11 lead.

But the Cats fought back.

After junior Melissa Miller traded points in the paint with Minnesota’s Ashley Ellis-Milan, NU responded with an 11-2 run.

“We were outmatched in the post in terms of height and size,” Miller said. “They were stronger, but we need to be a little smarter, I guess, throughout the game.”

A three by junior Sara Stutz with four minutes left in the half gave the Cats the lead, 28-26. Stutz, Miller and Glasauer led the Cats, finishing the game with 14 points each.

Fox added a lay-in off a fast break to put the Golden Gophers up 30-28, but Bibbs drained a running jumper with three seconds left to tie the game at 30 at halftime.

Minnesota came out strong in the second half, seizing a 39-36 lead behind four straight points by Ellis-Milan.

The Big Ten leader in offensive rebounds had a double-double, scoring a game-high 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.

“She’s a very strong post player,” Miller said. “She’s going to get her 20 points a night, but it’s kind of minimizing how effective she is at that.”

NU hung close, taking the lead on a tough lay-in by Bibbs with 12:13 left. Stutz delivered a no-look pass to Glasauer, who made a 3-pointer to put NU up, 44-40.

The Cats extended their lead to seven on a one-handed lay-in by freshman Kaitlin McInerney, but Minnesota responded, forcing three turnovers in two and a half minutes.

A runner by the Golden Gophers’ Brittany McCoy put Minnesota ahead again, 56-57.

“It was a great game from beginning to end,” NU coach Beth Combs said. “Neither team really dominated either half. It was a game of runs, and we just came up short.”

The teams traded baskets in the final minutes, and no team led by more than three points.

After a jumper by Minnesota’s Kelly Roysland put her team up by two with 51 seconds left, Sara Stutz answered with two free-throws to even the score at 63.

Then things got crazy.

McCoy missed a shot from the top of the key with five seconds left. Miller grabbed the rebound and passed the ball to Bibbs near Minnesota’s 3-point arc.

Bibbs bobbled the ball, and Fox came up with the turnover. She turned and drained a jumper with 0.2 left.

Though the referees initially said the shot came after the buzzer, they reversed their decision, giving Minnesota the win.

“The bottom line is we put ourselves in a situation to win a ballgame, and it didn’t happen,” Combs said.

“We had a good job on the box-out. But they were able to get the loose ball, and that’s the end of game.”

The Cats must bounce back quickly from their second straight two-point loss. They play at Big Ten-leading No. 6 Ohio State (14-1, 3-0) Sunday.

“Its frustrating, but it’s a wake-up call,” Glasauer said. “In a tight game, it’s one more box-out, one more unforced turnover. Little things like that.

“It’s two games that were ours. We could be 2-2 in the standings. We have to force it to leave it behind somehow, go show up tomorrow in practice and work on the mistakes we made today.”

Reach Matt Baker at [email protected]