Women’s Basketball: In the red, not pink

Danny Daly

Freshman guard Maggie Mocchi scored a career-high 19 points, but it was not enough to help Northwestern overcome a second-half scoring explosion by Indiana.

The Wildcats (6-20, 2-13) faded down the stretch as the Hoosiers (17-8, 10-6) heated up, falling 85-67 even though the score was tied at 58 with eight minutes left. Indiana picked apart NU’s matchup zone defense in the second half, shooting 62.5 percent after intermission.

“I don’t think we were as aggressive as we have been in past games,” Mocchi said.

Things went the Cats’ way in the early going. NU built a 15-11 lead in the first six and a half minutes, with Mocchi and fellow freshman Brittany Orban scoring all the points for coach Joe McKeown’s squad.

Thus far, McKeown has been impressed with the performance and attitude of both players.

“I’ve been pleased with them all year, at least as far as effort,” he said. “They both have got a certain toughness about them that they bring to the table.”

The margin grew to six points with just over seven minutes left before halftime, but Indiana sank 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to tie it up. The Hoosiers took a 35-34 lead into the locker room.

Despite connecting on just 37 percent of their field goals in the first half – 11 percent worse than Indiana – NU managed to stay in the game due to its rebounding and long-range shooting. The Cats hit six shots from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes and held a 22-15 rebounding edge.

The latter statistic was particularly surprising. On the season Indiana has averaged 39.8 rebounds a game, three more than its opponent, whereas NU has gotten outrebounded in most of its games.

But the Cats collected 13 offensive boards in the first half and 20 for the game, finishing with a 37-32 advantage on the glass.

“We’ve really been working on the box-out and the rebounding drills,” Orban said. “It takes heart to go out there and go after the rebounds. That’s all it is – motivation and drive. I think everyone has really gained that motivation in the last few weeks.”

The beginning of the second half remained competitive. NU led 51-47 after seven minutes but ultimately could not maintain its defensive effort, and the wheels fell off.

“It was one of those games where there was a lot of back-and-forth scoring,” McKeown said. “I think at some point we just stopped playing defense because we got frustrated. We just broke down, and that was the game right there.”

Indiana went on a 19-5 run with eight minutes to go, jumping ahead 77-63 before making 8-of-10 at the free-throw line in the last two minutes to put the game on ice.

A major reason why the Hoosiers turned the game into a blowout was their ability to contain the Cats on the outside. NU shot just 33 percent from deep in the second half after the 6-of-14 effort in the first.

“They were contesting shots a lot better on the 3-point line,” said Orban, who finished with 13 points. “We could have been a little more active in trying to get the shots off, maybe we were a little hesitant, but overall I think it was a change in Indiana’s defensive pressure.”

Sophomore guard Jori Davis provided Indiana with an offensive spark, pouring in 25 points and making 5-of-6 shots from the perimeter.

The Cats paid most of their attention to Hoosiers’ guard Jamie Braun and forward Whitney Thomas, who only scored 10 and eight points, respectively, after combining for 32 in Indiana’s 81-57 victory over NU in December. But too often Davis got open looks, which she made the most of.

“We really focused on (guard Jamie Braun),” McKeown said. “She really worried me – her and Thomas. We kind of let Davis loose and she made us pay.”

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