Women’s Basketball: Wildcats look to extend streak

Colin Becht

In the 11 days since Northwestern last faced Wisconsin, the Wildcats have become a different team than the one that fell 62-50 to the Badgers at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

NU is riding a two-game winning streak after completing sweeps of Illinois and Ohio State. That emotional high starkly contrasts the Jan. 30 meeting with the Badgers, who pulled out a late win over an NU team reeling from three straight conference losses.

“Knowing you can win on the road in this league at tough places like Ohio State,” coach Joe McKeown said, “it just helps our confidence.”

That increased confidence is allowing the Cats (16-8, 5-6 Big Ten) to be more relaxed heading into Thursday’s game.

“When you’re in a (three)-game losing streak, everything’s really tense,” senior center Amy Jaeschke said. “This time around we’re much more loose.”

NU hung tight with Wisconsin (13-10, 8-3) for most of the game, trailing by one with less than six minutes to play. But the Badgers continued to hit clutch jumpers late while the Cats went cold, missing their final five 3-pointers of the game.

Jaeschke said the game tape revealed a source of Wisconsin strength NU might be able to limit.

“They have two really go-to players that they want to have shoot the ball at the end of the game, so we looked at their tendencies,” Jaeschke said. “They run a lot of screen-and-rolls, so in the last two practices all we’ve really been working on is how to defend that screen-and-roll.”

Sophomore guard Tailor Jones said slowing the Badgers’ pick-and-roll offense boils down to identifying and containing those two marquee players, guard Alyssa Karel and forward Lin Zastrow. Karel and Zastrow contributed 17 points each last game against the Cats, with Karel hitting three 3-pointers.

“We just have to be aware of who’s on the floor and where they’re at at all times,” Jones said.

Karel and Zastrow combined for Wisconsin’s final nine field goals, helping the Badgers pull away.

“They made three shots that really broke our back in the last couple of minutes,” McKeown said.

If presented with another tight game late in the second half, McKeown said he hopes his team will react better. Senior guard Beth Marshall said closing out tight games has been a team goal, and the Cats have seen some positive results recently.

NU defeated Illinois 80-79 a week ago on a game-winning jumper by Jaeschke with 1.4 seconds remaining.

McKeown said that last-second win illustrated the impact of a strong finish.

“It helped me get my point across,” he said.

The Cats will once again need a clutch performance from Jaeschke, who was relatively contained by Zastrow’s aggressiveness in the post. Though Jaeschke grabbed 11 boards, she was held to a season-low 10 points.

Not letting “the physicality of the game get to (her)” has been an area of improvement for Jaeschke, she said.

“Accept the fact that they’re going to push me around in the post and just let the game come to me,” Jaeschke said. “I can look more for my outside shots and not wear myself trying to push back against the strength of Zastrow.”

Regardless of what NU has learned in how to matchup with Wisconsin, they’re still riding high off their two wins last week.

“If we carry that momentum over, we should definitely beat Wisconsin,” Jones said.

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