Women’s Basketball: Bibbs lone constant on injured Cats

Jimmy Mitchell

Northwestern received a devastating blow the first game of the season as freshman center and McDonald’s High School All-American Amy Jaeschke suffered a broken hand that sidelined her for more than a month.

NU’s distress continued when sophomore forward Kaitlin McInerney suffered a season-ending injury to her right ACL in December. Senior guard Sara Stutz joined the list of casualties Jan. 10 when she endured a partial ACL tear.

And these are just the latest additions to the team’s ever-growing injury list. Sophomore guard Beth Marshall is expected to miss another two to three weeks with a left femoral stress fracture, while junior guard Kristin Cartwright will likely redshirt this season after having ACL surgery over the summer.

In the midst of such instability, senior point guard Nadia Bibbs has been one of the few constant forces for the Wildcats and coach Beth Combs.

Bibbs has started every game this season and will lead NU (4-13, 0-5 Big Ten) tonight against Michigan State (10-8, 2-4 Big Ten) at 7 p.m. at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Looking to rebound from a six-game losing streak, Bibbs and the rest of the Cats have begun to show signs of life.

NU contended with No. 19 Ohio State for the first 30 minutes Sunday – even taking a double-digit lead in the middle of the first half – before falling 77-55.

“We’re starting to pick up some momentum,” Bibbs said. “We played pretty well the past two games, but we haven’t been able to put it together for the whole 40 minutes. We’ve seen some bright sparks that we haven’t seen in a while, so hopefully we can get something that will push us over (against Michigan State).”

One of those bright sparks has been Jaeschke, who has recorded career highs in scoring in back-to-back games.

Also emerging is freshman guard Meshia Reed, who has earned a spot in the starting lineup due to the absences of McInerney and Stutz.

With the rise of NU’s underclassmen, Bibbs has become one of the senior leaders of the squad. She has also put up good numbers, ranking second on the team in total points (134) and second in rebounding (6.6 per game).

But Bibbs said the key to NU’s season remains in getting the ball inside to Jaeschke and her cousin, junior Ellen Jaeschke.

“I think we really just need to stay more focused on our game plan, trying to get to ball to the post as much as possible, working our high-low game and getting shots inside the key,” Bibbs said. “When we start to get away from that is when (the opposing team) starts to push away.”

Given the injuries that have plagued the team thus far, NU does not have the roster depth it thought it would at the start of the season. Nevertheless, Bibbs feels those maladies are not excuses for the Cats’ disappointing performances.

“You have to take (the injuries) as they lay,” Bibbs said. “I mean, we still have 11 people that can step up and play, so we’re just thinking of what we have. You can’t expect too much of anything.”

Reach Jimmy Mitchell at [email protected]