Record-Setting Loss (Women’s Basketball)

Matt Baker

By Matt BakerThe Daily Northwestern

Northwestern looked ready to upset Michigan State Thursday night.

The Wildcats forced turnovers on the Spartans’ first three possessions, dove for loose balls and held an 8-7 edge on the boards in the first four minutes.

But NU couldn’t shoot.

The Cats’ 21.9 percent field goal percentage overshadowed their hustle as NU dropped its 18th game in a row, 55-48, Thursday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

The losing streak is the longest single-season skid in the program’s 32-year history.

“I think we’re just so tired of losing that we thought we had to change something up a bit,” freshman Kaitlin McInerney said. “The defensive intensity had to be there. We went for steals, went for tips and just hustled.”

Though Michigan State (18-6, 9-2 Big Ten) opened the game with more turnovers (5) than shots (2) and did not score for almost five minutes, the Cats could not capitalize. NU (6-19, 0-12) shot 1-11 early, scoring four of its first six points off of free-throws.

After Sara Stutz flew for a loose ball, nearly getting trampled by an army of Spartan post players, the junior guard drained a 3 to extend the Cats’ lead to 11-2 with 13:45 left in the half.

The Spartans fought back as NU’s shot 22 percent from the field in the first half. Michigan State held the Cats scoreless for more than six minutes before the break. A three by Spartans guard Mia Johnson tied the game at 18 with 5:46 left.

“There’s no reason why we continue to shoot 20 percent,” coach Beth Combs said. “We’re getting open looks. We’re getting open shots. We’ve got to continue to keep shooting and work on our confidence and be able to knock those down.”

McInerney scooped a left-handed shot around 6-foot-9 freshman Allyssa DeHaan to end NU’s scoring drought. McInerney led the Cats with 15 points.

Michigan State led 29-22 at the break and opened the second half on an 11-0 run. NU had six turnovers in the first four minutes of the half. A lay-up by Johnson with 17 minutes left gave the Spartans a 40-22 lead, their largest of the game.

“Coach said we can still do it, we just needed to get our act together,” McInerney said. “We need to believe in ourselves, even if no one else does.”

But the Cats’ defense and hustle plays helped them come back. NU forced 11 steals, 23 total turnovers and held a 20-12 edge in offensive rebounds. The Spartans’ 55 points were the fewest NU has allowed since giving up 53 to Princeton on Dec. 1, the Cats’ last win of this season.

“One of the things I’m really proud about our team tonight is that we fought,” Combs said. “They got us back on our heels, and we were able to answer it in the last 10 minutes of the second half and make this a game.”

After sophomore Kristin Cartwright was fouled during a shot and made both free-throws, NU trailed by only four, 48-44, with two minutes left.

Her points capped off a 15-minute, 22-8 run by the Cats.

The Spartans’ foul trouble helped fuel the Cats’ comeback.

NU was in the bonus early and made more free-throws than Michigan State attempted.

Combs said NU will gain confidence from its victories on the boards and at the free-throw line.

“Our win and loss column is not as important as the little things we’re doing,” Combs said. “We out-rebounded them tonight. They turned the ball over more than we did tonight. Those are things we can build on and move forward.

“Good things happen when you win those statistical categories, and now we’ve go to develop an attitude to go with it.”

Senior A.J. Glasauer said the team’s moral victories are not as important as earning their first Big Ten win of the season Sunday against Penn State.

“I’m not leaving without a Big Ten win,” Glasauer said. “This is as good as any of the four games we have left. I just want to get a win, especially at home.”

Reach Matt Baker at [email protected]