No Day To Remember (Women’s Basketball)

Matt Baker

By Matt BakerThe Daily Northwestern

In the middle of a 13-game losing streak, coach Beth Combs continued to tinker with Northwestern’s line-up Thursday night in West Lafayette, Ind., benching the team’s two leading scorers and starting three sophomores and two freshmen.

The new line-up didn’t work.

The Wildcats fell behind early and scored just 13 first-half points as No. 12 Purdue trounced NU 72-30 to extend the Cats’ losing skid to 14 games. The Cats’ 30 points was their lowest single game total in Combs’ three years at NU, and their lowest offensive output since the program’s inaugural campaign during the 1975-76 season.

“It didn’t matter who we put in there – starters or subs,” Combs said. “It wasn’t going our way. I don’t think anything worked out for us tonight.”

For the second straight game, Combs benched senior captain A.J. Glasauer and juniors Sara Stutz, Nadia Bibbs and Melissa Miller at the start of the game, and NU (6-15, 0-8 Big Ten) hung with Purdue (19-3, 8-0) for the first five minutes.

After Purdue guard FahKara Malone drained a 3 in the first 15 seconds, NU sophomore Kristin Cartwright answered with a trey to tie the game. A jumper by Bibbs moments later put the Cats down 7-5.

The Boilermakers held NU scoreless for the next seven and a half minutes, dropping 20 straight points on the Cats to take a 27-5 lead. A 3-pointer by sophomore Erin Dickerson ended NU’s scoring drought, but Purdue answered with an 11-0 run to put the game away.

Purdue capitalized on of NU’s mistakes, scoring 15 points off the Cats’ 12 turnovers during the 31-3 run. The Boilermakers had almost as many second-chance points (seven) as NU had rebounds (eight) during the 14-minute span.

NU finally reached double-digits off of a fast break lay-up by Bibbs with 1:09 left in the first half. After Bibbs drained a 3-pointer in the last minute of the half, Purdue’s Lalisha Freeman nailed a shot at the buzzer to give the Boilermakers a 41-13 lead at halftime.

The Cats finished the period with more turnovers (18) than points (13). Bibbs’ seven first-half points were more than the rest of the team combined.

Despite coming off of the bench for the second straight game, Bibbs said she accepted her current position behind freshman Beth Marshall.

“You just come out ready to play,” Bibbs said. “Everybody has a role, so you just have to take it how it comes.”

The second half was the same story for the Cats.

NU scored just one point – a free-throw by Cartwright – in the first eight minutes, and the Boilermakers extended their lead to 55-14. Another 3-pointer by Bibbs capped off a 9-0 NU run, bringing the Cats within 55-23 with 8:28 left in the game.

“I’d say this is the worst loss this team has had,” Combs said. “We did not come out today the way we needed to. This is not a day we’d like to remember in the near future.”

Bibbs led the Cats with 15 total points, outscoring NU’s starting five by six. Glasauer, the team’s leading scorer on the season, did not score in 16 minutes. Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton led the Boilermakers with 17 points.

Bibbs said morale has slipped after the team’s 42-point loss Thursday. She said she hopes they gained confidence after their strong moments in the second half and will come out with intensity for their game at in-state rival Illinois (14-5, 4-3) Sunday afternoon.

“We need a win right now,” Bibbs said, “So anybody that comes out we need to be ready to play against.”

Reach Matt Baker at [email protected]