Women’s Basketball: Northwestern loses third straight at Minnesota

Colin Becht

When Northwestern defeated then-No. 24 Ohio State two weeks ago, the victory was billed as a program-defining win, proof that NU was an elite competitor in the Big Ten. Now after the NU’s 63-58 loss at Minnesota on Thursday, the Wildcats’ place among the elites of the conferences is a little less certain.

The Cats dropped their third consecutive contest, as sophomore center Dannielle Diamant’s game-tying three-point attempt hit front iron with time running out.

“Not a good way to go after beating a ranked opponent to lose three games straight,” senior center Amy Jaeschke said. “Right now we have to sit down and reevaluate things. We know we’re a different Northwestern, we just have to prove it.”

After Minnesota forward Jackie Voigt missed her second free throw with 14 seconds left, NU trailed 61-58. However, Diamant, who has yet to make a 3-pointer this season on five attempts, was unable to send the game to overtime.

“We got a good shot,” coach Joe McKeown said. “It almost went in and would have tied the game. No second guessing there.”

The Cats once again were unable to present a balanced offensive attack as it centered almost exclusively on Jaeschke. Jaeschke scored 26 points, but grabbed just five boards, far below her 9.4 boards per game average. Her teammates, however, offered little support with no other NU player finishing in double digits.

“That’s going to be the biggest thing for us,” McKeown said. “If we want to be successful, we’ve got to find more scoring from other people.”

While Minnesota presented a less than balanced offense itself, the duo of Katie Loberg and Kiara Buford provided all the Golden Gophers would need as the two combined for 39 points. Loberg’s 21 points were a career-high.

“You can tell that she’s been in the gym a lot, working on her hook shot,” Jaeschke said. “(She) stepped up and made the big plays.”

Despite trailing for much of the first half, NU rallied for a 15-6 run spanning 10 minutes late in the opening period to lead 31-27 at halftime.

However, the Cats came out of the break ice cold and didn’t hit a field goal until Jaeschke got a put-back layup to go more than seven minutes into the half. By that time, the Gophers had reclaimed the lead.

Minnesota used its dominance on the glass to get second-chance points, out-rebounding NU 46-34, including 21 offensive rebounds. Forward Kionna Kellogg controlled the paint with 15 rebounds, eight of which were offensive boards. Voigt also grabbed 10 rebounds, two more than the Cats’ leading rebounder, sophomore forward Kendall Hackney.

“We were rotating on defense, and I think a lot of the rebounds came to the weak side,” Jaeschke said. “We were just unable to get the position we needed to, to get those weak-side rebounds.”

NU and Minnesota kept the game mostly within a point throughout the second half until the Gophers started pulling away inside the final seven minutes. The Gophers went on a 10-1 run, transforming a tight 41-40 Cats lead into a comfortable Minnesota advantage.

The Cats managed to close the game down the stretch thanks to clutch free throw and 3-point shooting, narrowing the gap to as few as two points.

But Diamant was unable to recreate the heroics of senior point guard Beth Marshall, whose buzzer-beating 3-pointer at Illinois sent the game into overtime, leading to a 69-66 victory for the Cats.

With three straight losses, NU’s NCAA tournament hopes have taken a hit, but the Cats will not have to wait long for a chance to right the ship. NU faces Wisconsin on Sunday at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

“We’ve got to move forward and look forward to Wisconsin, have a little amnesia and be resilient,” McKeown said.

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