Northwestern freshman center Amy Jaeschke played with intensity and efficiency against Ohio State on Sunday, something that has evaded NU’s grasp for much of the season.
After being sidelined for more than a month with a broken hand, she has returned to the court and provided NU with a dominating presence on the post.
Despite an improved inside game and a career-best performance by Jaeschke, the Wildcats did not have enough firepower to compete with perennial Big Ten powerhouse Ohio State.
The 1,623 in attendance Sunday witnessed the best performance of Jaeschke’s rising career. She finished the game 11 of 17 from the field and had a career-high 24 points. She also provided NU with a continual presence in the middle, spending all but three minutes on the floor.
Coach Beth Combs described Jaeschke’s performance against Ohio State as “huge.”
“Amy has struggled offensively, and we’ve really tried to talk with her the last week about just letting the game come to her a little bit,” Combs said, “trying to get her a little bit more on the low block, and then looking to establish the outside.”
Jaeschke shot a perfect 5 of 5 in the first half and the rest of the Cats followed her lead. NU finished the first 20 minutes shooting 54.2 percent, far surpassing their season average.
The trouble came, however, when the Buckeyes began to play with much more pressure and physicality. After NU built a 10-point cushion, Ohio State began to apply a full court press that placed extra strain on the NU guards.
The pairing of Jaeschke with her cousin, junior forward Ellen Jaeschke, has created a formidable inside force for the Cats. But, by applying pressure to NU’s guards, Ohio State made it difficult for the Cats to create opportunities for the frontcourt, especially in the second half.
The effectiveness of the Buckeyes’ pressure could be seen through NU’s decreasing level of accuracy from the floor. The Cats shot just 10 of 31 in the second half.
“(Ohio State’s press) really took a lot of time off the clock,” Jaeschke said. “It made us get through our offense quicker and try to get a shot off that maybe wasn’t our best option. It was a great job by them.”
Excluding the inside combination of the two Jaeschkes, NU went just 3 of 16 in the second half. A visibly tired outside corps seemed to simply have too much on their hands Sunday.
“We just came up short,” Combs said. We’re just a little short right now compared to where they are.”
Reach Jimmy Mitchell at [email protected]