Women’s basketball: Out of steam – Cats fall to Boilermakers

Jonah L. Rosenblum

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – If there is one image that best encapsulates Northwestern’s 54-43 loss at Purdue on Sunday, it comes courtesy of senior center Amy Jaeschke.

After a bank shot narrowed their deficit to 10 points with just less than six minutes remaining, the Wildcats had a chance to get the ball back quickly after the Boilermakers misfired on three consecutive three-pointers.

On Purdue’s final missed shot, the ball bounced off the rim, and deflected off several players before landing on Jaeschke’s shoulder. But the senior was unable to hold on as Boilermakers guard Brittany Rayburn ripped the ball away, hit a layup and drew the foul, on her way to a successful three-point play.

That one-minute sequence illustrated much of what went wrong for 40 minutes on Sunday. Although Jaeschke led all scorers with 19 points, the rest of her teammates combined for just 24 points. The Cats’ usual supplemental offensive leaders struggled, as senior guard Beth Marshall, junior forward Brittany Orban and sophomore forward Kendall Hackney, combined to hit just 4-of-18 field-goal attempts.

Marshall, Hackney and Orban were three of many players who struggled to find their shooting touch Sunday. Both teams shot just 32 percent from the field and were particularly poor from behind the three-point line, where NU and Purdue combined to hit just 3-of-30 shots.

“Some of it’s just who we are,” coach Joe McKeown said. “We’re not a team that’s going to score 80 or 90 points. We have to grind and defend.”

But on Sunday, it was Purdue that was able to grind the victory out. The Boilermakers won the rebounding war 45-31, including a 19-7 advantage on the offensive glass.

“If you’re not going to make shots, you have to get to the foul line and get offensive boards,” Boilermakers coach Sharon Versyp said, “That’s a huge weakness of our team. When we’ve been able to get offensive boards, against Michigan, against IU and against the team today, that really helps. It just gives you more opportunities if your shot isn’t falling.”

NU had a difficult time right off the bat against Purdue. The Cats fell behind 11-3 several minutes into the game and were down 25-11 with less than four minutes remaining in the first half.

In particular, the Cats had a difficult time stopping Boilermakers forward Drey Mingo, who had 11 points and seven rebounds in the first half, finishing the game with a double-double.

“It’s easy to find her in the post,” Rayburn said. “She’s huge with her long arms and hands. She’s easy to find. She was scoring at will.”

After trailing by double digits for most of Sunday’s contest with Purdue, NU finally narrowed its deficit to eight after consecutive Jaeschke layups. With three minutes remaining, the Cats needed a quick miss, so they could get back to work.

They got their quick miss, but were unable to capitalize, as the Boilermakers grabbed two consecutive offensive rebounds, helping to take nearly a minute off the clock.

When NU finally did get the ball back, Marshall sprinted down the court and missed a wide-open layup.

On the ensuing offensive possession, things got even worse for the Cats, as Orban was slammed to the ground while going for a loose ball. Afterwards, she lay on the court, obviously in pain. The game was stopped for Orban as she was taken off the court.

McKeown was left standing on the baseline, his arms raised, another fitting image on a day in which little went right for his team.

“I was just trying to find a doctor,” McKeown said.

After the game, McKeown said he wasn’t sure what the extent of Orban’s injury was. A team official said on Monday that Orban suffered a knee injury during the game but is now walking on the leg.

Orban’s injury was just one example of how physical Sunday’s game was. Earlier in the game, Rayburn fell to the floor, requiring stitches after the game for an injury above her eye, after receiving what appeared to be an elbow from Jaeschke.

After prolonged discussion by the referees, the Cats’ senior center was whistled for an intentional foul, even though Rayburn and Versyp both said Jaeschke had no intention of hitting Rayburn.

“I’m the perfect height for her,” said Rayburn, who is five inches shorter than Jaeschke. “I mean I don’t even know what it was, elbow, arm, but I know it was inadvertent.”

The accidental nature of it didn’t stop the crowd from booing Jaeschke every time she touched the ball for the remainder of the game.

“When that many people are booing at you, you hear it,” Jaeschke said. “It’s a really tough place to play, but you have to take that internally and shove it back at them.”

The Cats were ultimately unable to defeat the Boilermakers as they continued their long history of failure at Mackey Arena. In fact, NU hasn’t won in West Lafayette since 1993.

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