Women’s Basketball: Looking for a spark

Jimmy Mitchell

CHICAGO – After opening the season with a 1-2 record, Northwestern had an opportunity to even its record against the University of Illinois-Chicago in an intra-city affair.

But the Wildcats (1-3), currently mired in an offensive slump, fell 53-45 to the Flames (1-1) at the UIC Pavilion on Wednesday. NU finished the game with only a 30.6 shooting percentage and a 4 for 9 mark from the free throw line.

The Cats have averaged just 40.5 points per game during their last two contests.

“We need to get better. I don’t know what we were waiting for tonight,” coach Beth Combs said. “It’s not a matter of losing the ball game. We just didn’t come ready to play.”

The game began promisingly enough for NU, as field goals from senior guard Sara Stutz and junior center Ellen Jaeschke gave Northwestern an early 4-0 advantage. The Cats’ defense held UIC scoreless for the first 3:18.

However, fewer than two and half minutes later, the Flames were up 8-4, in the middle of a 14-4 surge. NU would trail by three or more points for the rest of the game.

“We never got it together. We never played our game,” sophomore forward Kaitlin McInerney said.

The first half, much like the rest of the game, was characterized by errors and missed opportunities. Halfway through the first period, NU had a stretch consisting of an airball by Stutz, a carry by senior guard Nadia Bibbs and three more consecutive airballs.

The Cats closed out the first period of play trailing 24-19, but very much still in the game. While NU was consistently sloppy, UIC left the door open for a comeback by hitting only 11-of-31 field goals.

“We control what we do. I didn’t think that UIC did anything to beat us, not to take anything away from them,” Combs said.

NU was able to capitalize off of four Flames turnovers early in the second half to close the gap to 26-23. But eight straight points later, UIC was dominating 34-23 and would stay comfortably ahead for the rest of the game.

The Cats’ scoring was lead by McInerney and sophomore guard Jenny Eckhart, who each put up 11 points. McInerney and Bibbs lead the game with 11 rebounds apiece.

But Eckhart and Bibbs, the primary ball handlers, also combined for 11 turnovers. Combs credited the poor play partly to just having begun the regular season.

“It’s early in the season, and we’re all trying to find our roles. Tomorrow, we step on the floor and begin again,” she said.

Freshman phenom Amy Jaeschke, in street clothes and a wrist cast, remained a looming presence on the bench Wednesday. Ellen Jaeschke, her cousin and replacement in the starting lineup, finished with only four points and three rebounds. Along with troublesome guard play, inconsistency at the center position only exacerbates the offensive troubles that have plagued NU.

But the Cats remain hopeful that their worrying set of circumstances will soon resolve itself.

“Obviously we’d like to have (Amy) on the floor, she’s an All-American,” Ellen Jaeschke said. “But I think it’s good that we’re working together with what we have. As we improve with what we have, when she comes back we’ll be that much better.”

Reach Jimmy Mitchell at [email protected]