Women’s Basketball Gamer: Jaeschke propels Wildcats to weekend wins

Sarah Kuta

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At the start of her third season in Evanston, Amy Jaeschke has never been prouder to be a Northwestern basketball player. The Wildcats are currently undefeated after three games and there is already a buzz surrounding the team.

“We’ve struggled in the past couple of years, but just these three wins – it’s a totally different team,” Jaeschke. “It’s just such a positive atmosphere that it’s great to be part of the team right now.”

NU (3-0) trounced SIU-Edwardsville (2-3) 68-37 on Friday and followed that with a 78-58 victory over IPFW (2-2) on Sunday. This start is the Cats’ best since the 2006-07 season.Jaeschke led the Cats against the Cougars, posting her first double-double of the season with 16 points and 15 rebounds. The junior center tied a career-best with nine blocks, while freshman center Dannielle Diamant also helped pace NU with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

NU’s defense held SIUE scoreless for a five-minute stretch in the first half and limited the Cougars inside, allowing just one basket in the paint and 14 total points. After intermission, the Cats outscored the Cougars 38-23 and connected on 16-of-19 free throws.

While NU had a clear size advantage, Jaeschke said the Cats can use the experience of playing against players who are faster and more physical to prepare for the regular season.

“We’re going to be playing against really athletic bigs in the Big Ten,” said the 6-foot-5 center, who was named co-Big Ten Player of the Week for her efforts. “They’re going to be able to take us off the dribble so if we can learn to play defense against these smaller players, when we go against athletic Big Ten players, we’ll be able to stop them, too.”

Jaeschke led the Cats again on Sunday against IPFW with 18 points, nine rebounds and five blocks. Freshman forward Kendall Hackney added 12 points and seven rebounds.Hackney knocked down the first of NU’s six 3-pointers in the first half. Though the Cats connected on only 10 percent of their shots from beyond the arc in the second half, McKeown said he plans to incorporate the Cats’ outside skill into his offensive tactics for the regular season.

“We did what we had to do,” McKeown said. “IPFW forced us to shoot the ball from the perimeter. It’s good for us. We have to learn how to do deal with that because it’s going to happen again and again.”

The Cats’ defense held the Mastodons to just 14 points in the paint and forced 18 turnovers. Hackney attributed the defensive success to a bigger back court. With a taller team, traps are more effective at running down the shot clock and pressuring teams to take quick shots.

Against SIUE, the Cats committed 24 turnovers. NU reduced that number to 15 in the win over IPFW, but both figures concerned McKeown with ranked teams on the horizon.

“We’re getting a little antsy,” Hackney said. “A lot of the underclassmen aren’t as used to the tempo. We’re just trying to get caught up and relax because we know we can take care of the ball.”

Though McKeown said the Cats definitely have to reduce the number of “self-inflicted wounds” if they hope to be a factor in the Big Ten, his players benefitted from the winning atmosphere on campus this weekend.

“Just being at Northwestern right now (is exciting),” he said. “People are talking about our student athletes. There’s just a little more excitement about it.”sarahkuta2012@u.northwestern.edu