Women’s Basketball: Holding on to ball key in victory

Jimmy Mitchell

Turning the ball over and giving the opposition additional opportunities to score had plagued Northwestern throughout its 16-game losing streak.

But Sunday, NU minimized its errors and led by the play of senior guard Nadia Bibbs, ended its winless drought of more than two months with a 70-58 win over Penn State at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

The Wildcats limited their ball handling mistakes, turning the ball over just 11 times, two fewer than Penn State. Bibbs had three turnovers in 35 minutes, along with four assists and a team-high 19 points.

Head coach Beth Combs said Bibbs’s performance encapsulated much of her season.

“Nadia’s had a great senior year for us,” Combs said. “For her to be able to come out and put it together at both ends for 40 minutes, I’m thrilled for her. She’s played well all season.”

Bibbs spearheaded an energetic and focused style of play for NU that limited turnovers and forced the Lady Lions into mistakes of their own. The Cats took advantage of Penn State’s errors and recorded 21 points off turnovers.

Bibbs set the tone early, making a key steal five minutes into the game and recording a transition lay-up to put the Cats ahead by six.

The Lady Lions rallied late in the first half, as the Cats relapsed into their old ways when forward Melissa Miller turned it over to guard Kamela Gissendanner. Gissendanner would complete a 3-point play to cut NU’s lead to one.

But Bibbs responded immediately, hitting a 3-pointer on the next possession.

“When (opposing teams) went on their runs, usually we’ll slump down, and all our emotion and energy will go away,” Bibbs said. “But we were finally able to keep with it.”

The Cats went into halftime leading by five points, but a 7-2 Penn State run to start the second half knotted the score at 37.

Again, Bibbs was the one to respond for the Cats, as her long jumper with 16 minutes remaining put NU ahead for good.

The Lady Lions again cut the lead to one with 15 minutes left, but NU answered with another fast break. This time, Bibbs set up freshman guard Meshia Reed for the transition lay-up.

“That’s all energy,” Bibbs said. “Once you’re playing good defense, that will create transition points for you.”

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