Women’s Basketball: Hawkeyes’ hustle hurts Cats in loss

Jimmy Mitchell

Northwestern shot a better percentage from the field than Iowa on Thursday, edging the Hawkeyes 41.1 to 35.7. That included a 30-percent mark from behind the 3-point line for NU, compared to Iowa’s 19 percent.

But the Wildcats did not match their opposition in points, the only statistic that ultimately matters. A comfortable, 70-55 victory for Iowa translated into NU’s 10th straight loss, despite the Cats’ superior shooting numbers.

The difference Thursday ultimately came down to the sheer physicality of the Hawkeyes, especially in terms of offensive rebounding.

Iowa’s 22 rebounds off the offensive glass dwarfed the nine the Cats recovered and also lead to 18 second-chance points for the Hawkeyes. Iowa ultimately out-rebounded NU 49-34, matching the game’s 15-point spread.

The Hawkeyes crashed the offensive boards especially hard in the second half, with 13 of their 23 rebounds came on the offensive end.

“(Our rebounding) was pretty bad because they got second-chance points,” said freshman center Amy Jaeschke, who pulled down nine rebounds, a significant amount of NU’s total. “It’s just another opportunity for them to score.”

Iowa did get a lot of chances from the floor Thursday, attempting 70 field goals in comparison to the Cats’ 56. Coach Beth Combs emphasized that a lack of hustle on NU’s part led to more opportunities for the Hawkeyes.

“We talk about offensive rebounding every single day, ” Combs said. “Rebounding is about fight, it’s about effort, it’s about hustle. That cost us tonight. You’re looking at 40 points off of our turnovers and second-chance opportunities. You can’t win ball games giving up 22 (offensive rebounds).”

Iowa won the turnover battle against NU as well. The Cats turned the ball over 17 times, 10 of which resulted from Hawkeye steals.

Right from the opening tip, Iowa’s fast and physical defensive play forced NU’s offense into sloppy ball handling and last-second shots to avoid shot-clock violations.

In the Cats’ first possession, Iowa’s forceful defense coerced junior forward Ellen Jaeschke into taking an awkward shot that didn’t reach the basket.

During a particularly poor three-minute stretch in the middle of the first half, NU suffered two shot-clock violations. Senior guard Nadia Bibbs avoided a third by putting up a errant try as the buzzer sounded.

“In the first half, (Iowa) played a lot of zone,” sophomore guard Jenny Eckhart said. “We were having a hard time finding our shot opportunities. In the second half we set better screens and found our opportunities more, and attacked them, rather than let them attack us.”

When, late in the game, NU cut Iowa’s lead down to seven points, it was again pressure by the Hawkeyes that caused a relapse in NU’s play. Eckhart was forced to take a poor shot with little time remaining on the shot clock, and the momentum the Cats had obtained evaporated as Iowa built up their lead to a 12-point margin.

The Hawkeyes would stay comfortably ahead for the rest of the game.

“I think we have to be as aggressive (as Iowa was),” Combs said. “I think we came out (in the second half) with a lot of emotion, a lot of effort, and a lot of intensity.”

Reach Jimmy Mitchell at [email protected]