A changing of guards (Women’s basketball)

Jimmy Mitchell

The last time Northwestern took on Michigan State, the Wildcats were looking to recover from a month-long, six-game losing streak.

Tonight, more than a month after the teams’ last encounter resulted in a 74-62 Spartans win, not much has changed for NU.

NU’s losing streak has extended to 15 consecutive defeats, 14 of which have come against Big Ten opponents.

Nevertheless, the Cats (4-22, 0-14 Big Ten) have seen improvements in their play of late. NU hung tough with Wisconsin on Monday, keeping the game close until the final minutes in a 79-65 defeat.

Monday’s effort contrasted starkly with the Cats’ last match-up against Wisconsin, a 75-45 thrashing on Jan. 27.

Junior guard Erin Dickerson said the progress the Cats have shown is due to an improved mindset and team cohesion.

“We did a good job playing together (against Wisconsin), instead of everybody being an individual player,” she said. “I think that will be one of the keys to winning (at Michigan State).”

NU coach Beth Combs has recently shuffled the Cats’ starting lineup. She placed freshman guard Meshia Reed on the bench in favor of Dickerson on Feb. 7 against Indiana.

Dickerson has started the last four contests, but has largely been a non-factor in the Cats’ offense, putting up points in only one of the four games.

But her promotion has seemingly given Reed, who has averaged 10 points per game off the bench and has scored in double digits the last three games, a much-needed boost.

“Meshia is a very good spark coming off the bench,” Dickerson said. “She’s a good energy boost for our team.”

NU’s improved guard play has coincided with opposing teams placing more attention on freshman center Amy Jaeschke, who, after missing the first month of the season with a hand injury, has returned to be a dominating offensive figure and has averaged nearly 14 points per game.

“Amy’s been a great post presence,” Dickerson said. “Not only is she scoring, but (opposing teams) double down on her a lot, so that gives other people open looks to the basket and good opportunities to score.”

With only four games left in the Big Ten season, NU will have to work together and play selflessly to earn its first conference win, Dickerson said.

“That’s really what it’s all about,” she said. “It’s not about who’s starting or who’s ending. It’s about winning.”

[email protected]