Northwestern’s women’s basketball victories this weekend proved just how far the team has come under coach Joe McKeown. The team took down Dartmouth 66-37 on Friday and LSU 71-62 on Sunday afternoon.
The Wildcats (2-0) played nearly mistake-free as they knocked off perennial powerhouse LSU (0-1) behind a career game from junior forward Brittany Orban and 28 points from senior center Amy Jaeschke.
Orban had 18 points and a career-high 17 rebounds in a game that was at times very physical.
“It’s good to get experience to play a physical team,” Orban said. “Especially since teams in the Big Ten are not going to take it easy on us.”
The Cats defense led the way, grabbing 33 defensive rebounds and holding the Tigers to 35 percent shooting. The offense also had a solid game, shooting 43 percent from the floor and 21-of-27 from the free throw line.
“We got to the foul line tonight, and we kept them off the foul line and offensive glass for the most part,” McKeown said.
NU took the lead at 11-9 with about 12 minutes left in the first half and never trailed again. The Tigers made a couple of attempts to retake the lead late in the half, but the Cats took a seven-point lead into the break.
In the second half, LSU continued to fight back, responding to an early Jaeschke three-pointer by scoring seven straight points to cut the lead to 32-29. That difference shrunk to one at 36-35 with 15 minutes to go in the game off a rare four-point-play by guard Latear Eason.
The Tigers eventually tied it at 49 with seven minutes to go, but the Cats went on an 8-2 run to regain their lead.
LSU cut it to three with four minutes to go, but once again the Cats answered, going on a 9-0 run to put the game away for good.
“It’s just a maturity thing at this point,” Jaeschke said. “We just can’t let their runs affect our game.”
The Wildcats opened their season on Friday with the win over Dartmouth (0-1) as Jaeschke led all scorers with 20 points and added 10 rebounds. Sophomore forward Kendall Hackney added 16 points and Orban dropped in 12.
The Cats started out the game on a 10-3 run, and the Cats went on a 23-5 run in the last 14 minutes of the half to take a 35-14 lead into the locker room.
“The first couple of minutes we needed to get into the flow of the game,” Hackney said. “But once we got our defense going, we became more comfortable and got momentum.”
The Cats defense was ferocious all night, forcing 21 turnovers and limiting Dartmouth to 25 percent shooting from the field. They held the 2009 Ivy League Player of the Year, Dartmouth forward Brittney Smith, to just 12 points and 13 rebounds.
“I thought Kendall worked really hard to stop her from getting the ball,” McKeown said. “Our defensive help also helped to keep her at bay.”
Dartmouth started the second half with a 7-0 run. The momentum did not last though, as Dartmouth started to get into foul trouble. The Big Green had six fouls in the first half, but they matched that total just eight minutes into the second half.
“We just decided to attack more on offense in the second half,” Jaeschke said.
McKeown still stressed how early it is in the season despite the excitement over the weekend’s wins.
“It’s November, but I was proud of how we played,” McKeown said. “We showed a lot of heart.”