Women’s Basketball Sidebar: Howell again unstoppable against NU

Danny Daly

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.-Barring a meeting between Northwestern and Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament, the Wildcats have faced senior guard Jodi Howell for the last time. And they’re more than happy to see her go.

“I might come to her graduation,” coach Joe McKeown said. “You never know. I might show up.”

Since McKeown took over NU before last season, Howell has morphed into another player against his defense. Sunday’s contest was no different, as she led Purdue to a 53-42 victory with a team-high 12 points and shot 4-of-7 from beyond the arc.

“It’s like her favorite team to play against,” said Purdue point guard FahKara Malone, who added six points and assisted one of Howell’s 3-pointers. “She always hits at least four 3s. She came up big for us tonight.”

Normally, Howell is a solid complementary scorer, averaging 7.4 points per game as a junior and 9.6 points per game this year.

But she has been nearly perfect when the Boilermakers have played the Cats. Howell has made 20-of-26 shots in those four games combined, which averages to more than 15 points per game-well above her usual output.

McKeown and the coaches repeatedly stressed in film sessions to watch out for Howell, who wears the number 00. It still didn’t keep her from getting open looks.

“I’m from Philadelphia, so maybe we didn’t understand my accent,” McKeown said. “We leave her open and that hurts. She made us pay.”

Each of Howell’s baskets made a significant impact. Her first one, with 4:40 left in the first half, capped off an 18-2 Purdue run and put NU in a deep hole. For a five-minute stretch after halftime, Howell caught fire. She hit a 3-pointer just before the midway point to put the Boilermakers back on top by double digits and sank another trey to briefly quell the Cats’ momentum and extend her squad’s lead back to eight.

Howell’s last 3-pointer did the most damage. The sharpshooter connected from near the top of the key soon after NU clawed back to within 36-35. The Cats never got that close again.

“It was just inopportune times that she was hitting those 3s,” sophomore forward Brittany Orban said. “There were times where we turned out heads, and we needed to focus more on her.”

Considering Purdue was a combined 2-of-10 from the perimeter from Howell, her contributions were especially critical. No one else who took multiple shots for the Boilermakers made at least half of her attempts.

Instead, Purdue concentrated on clamping down on the other end. NU shot only 25 percent for the game and turned the ball over 17 times.

“It stops people from getting anxious,” Malone said of Howell’s hot hand. “It takes the pressure off of everybody else. With her knocking down shots, we know who we’re going to on the offensive end.”

Howell has been the difference against the Cats before, going a perfect 7-of-7 from the floor in regulation of the Boilermakers’ overtime win at Welsh-Ryan Arena last year. She almost prevented NU from securing its first Big Ten win this season, making all six of her shots.

For her part, Howell had no explanation for her success in Evanston other than, “I guess it’s the water.” The Cats can’t seem to figure out how to make her miss, either.

“She should be in one of those old Larry Bird ‘H-O-R-S-E’ commercials where you bank it off the McDonalds sign and off the rim, off the Suburban, off the roof, off the football stadium,” McKeown said after NU’s 60-58 victory over Purdue in December. “She could probably bank it off Fitz’s car right out here and it’d still go in. It’s amazing.”[email protected]