Women’s Basketball: NU bested despite two solid halves

Jimmy Mitchell

For weeks, Northwestern coach Beth Combs has said her team needs to be able to put two good halves of basketball together.

The Wildcats (4-18, 0-10 Big Ten) did just that Sunday against first-place Purdue (12-10, 7-3 Big Ten) but ultimately dropped a hard-fought, 62-53 battle with the Boilermakers at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

The loss extended the Cats’ losing streak to a season-high 11 games and also kept NU winless in the Big Ten.

But Combs did see improvement in the midst of the usual problems that have plagued the Cats this year.

“I think this was probably the best game we’ve played all conference season,” Combs said. “But it’s the same things that come back to bite us. We gave up 25 offensive boards. In a six-point ballgame with four and a half minutes left, we gave up offensive boards off free throws. (Purdue was) just fighting a little bit more and pushing back and making a stand. And we didn’t do that.”

The Boilermakers fought to take an early 9-2 lead, and NU’s offensive production was reduced to a mere pair of free throws in the first five minutes. But the Cats rattled off a seven-point spree, culminating in a transition 3-pointer from junior guard Erin Dickerson that knotted the score two minutes later.

A jumper from junior forward Ellen Jaeschke gave NU a 14-13 advantage midway through the half, but the Cats’ momentum was quelled when Purdue went on an 8-0 tear.

During the Boilermakers’ run, NU turned the ball over and allowed Purdue to grab offensive rebounds. Both have been problems for NU all season.

The turnover battle was pretty evenly contested Sunday, with NU’s 19 barely exceeding Purdue’s 17. But the Boilermakers out-rebounded the Cats 55 to 34, including 25 to 10 on the offensive end.

“Defense and boxing out is all about hustle,” senior guard Nadia Bibbs said. “It’s just a matter of working harder than the other person. I don’t think it’s a matter of our not hustling. It’s getting caught up in the game and trying to pay attention to other things.”

NU came out hot at the start of the second half and cut Purdue’s lead to a single basket. With 13 minutes remaining, Purdue’s lead was still at two before the Boilermakers went on another small run to extend their lead to seven.

The Cats closed the lead to five with five minutes left, but the Boilermakers surged ahead again to put the game out of reach.

Despite the final score, NU took solace in not falling behind early and having to fight from behind throughout the game.

“It just shows that we don’t have to wait until the second half,” Bibbs said. “We can do it from the beginning. We need to learn how to get over that hill and finally beat some of these teams.”

Reach Jimmy Mitchell at [email protected]