Women’s Basketball: Jaeschke gets green light to give full effort

Sarah Kuta

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Assistant coach Ali Jaques gave junior center Amy Jaeschke some advice before last Friday’s game against Toledo: Leave it all on the floor.

“She told me, ‘Do everything you can to exhaust yourself because you have people that can come in and sub for you,'” Jaeschke said. “That gave me a lot of comfort so that I could not pace myself.”

Last year, Jaeschke averaged 35.9 minutes per game. Though she was absent from NU’s win against Toledo for just four minutes, the frontcourt depth on the Cats’ bench changed her mindset significantly.

Coach Joe McKeown’s motive for adding several taller players to the roster was to give Jaeschke a break. The two towering freshmen, six-foot-five Dannielle Diamant and six-foot-two Kendall Hackney, along with Jaeschke’s improved physical condition, allowed the junior to play at a high level while on the floor.

“I found myself pushing myself a lot harder throughout the game,” Jaeschke said.

That effort showed, as Jaeschke played 36 minutes and had 27 points, eight rebounds, four blocks and four steals. On Wednesday, she was named to the preseason Naismith Watch List.

After winning its first road game since 2007, NU (1-0) will host nonconference opponents SIU-Edwardsville (2-2) and IPFW (2-1) this weekend at Welsh-Ryan Arena for the team’s home opener.

Though McKeown would prefer to run a fast-paced, quick-scoring transition offense, with Jaeschke’s size advantage, it makes sense for the Cats to run plays through the six-foot-five junior.

“It’s no secret, when you have somebody like Amy Jaeschke, you really want to feature her,” McKeown said. “We try to get her the ball, on the blocks, near the basket and let her go to work, and then play off of that.”

SIU-Edwardsville’s tallest player is six-foot-three center Whitney Champlin. For Jaeschke, facing shorter players adds a whole new set of pressures to perform well.

“It just means that I have to make sure I get the rebounds because there’s no excuse for me not to,” Jaeschke said.

IPFW will be a different story. With six players more than six feet tall, Jaeschke will get back to the mindset she will use against taller Big Ten foes this season.

In the IPFW exhibition game against Manchester College, the Mastodons relied heavily on their defense, forcing 32 turnovers and holding Manchester College scoreless for the first nine minutes of the game.

Knowing the Mastodons’ tendency to force turnovers, freshman forward Kendall Hackney said NU’s offense can’t get sloppy. With the high-energy, brisk pace of a transition offense, keeping control of the ball will be the Cats’ main focus.

“Sometimes our passes can be off, but crisp passes are really going to be key,” Hackney said.

McKeown said the Cats would have to become a better passing team and make better decisions with the ball to cut down on turnovers. McKeown’s offensive goal this season is to create a balanced shooting team, both inside and out.

In preparation for five games in nine days, Hackney wants to let opponents know what NU’s interior offense has to offer.

“We’re just excited to whoop on some people,” Hackney said. “Let’s do our thing. Let’s own in the paint and just blow them out.” sarahkuta2012@u.northwestern.edu