Women’s Basketball: Wildcats lose behind-arc battle to Badgers

Jonah Rosenblum

Thursday’s matchup between Northwestern and Wisconsin came down to two big runs by the Badgers. The first run left the Wildcats trailing by double-digits. The second served as a knockout blow, lifting Wisconsin to a 62-41 victory at the Kohl Center.

“Basketball is a game of runs,” sophomore forward Kendall Hackney said. “We made runs. They made runs. Our defense just needed to be a lot better. We let them get shots that they can knock down.”

With both teams rebounding and passing the ball with similar levels of efficiency, shooting made the difference. Both teams took a lot of shots from behind the arc, but the Badgers connected on seven more three-pointers, accounting for their 21-point margin of victory.

Wisconsin knocked down 10 of 23 shots from behind the arc. NU, on the other hand, hit just three of 19 three-point attempts.

“We got to make shots,” coach Joe McKeown said. “We got good looks. The ball just didn’t go in. One of those nights, you know.”

While the Cats (16-9, 5-7 Big Ten) outscored the Badgers (14-10, 9-3) in the paint, they were never able to find a groove from outside.

“We settled for outside shots when we could have attacked the basket a lot more,” Hackney said. “Wisconsin’s a good team, but if we attack them, they’ll have to foul.”

The contest started out fairly even. About seven minutes in, senior center Amy Jaeschke’s jumper gave the Cats an 11-10 lead, but the Badgers responded with 13 consecutive points. Nine of those 13 points came from behind the arc.

While Wisconsin knocked down shots from the outside, NU couldn’t make a shot anywhere on the court. The Cats were held scoreless for six minutes, allowing the Badgers to seize a 29-13 lead with three and a half minutes remaining in the opening stanza.

“We had a hard time knocking down shots while they were making all of theirs,” Hackney said.

Senior point guard Beth Marshall ended the first half with a buzzer-beating three-pointer and NU followed by scoring the first five points of the second half, drawing within 33-27. But the Cats were never able to come any closer, trailing by six or more for the remainder of the game.

A second run in the game’s final minutes, including another 13-0 streak, put the Badgers up by 21, firmly knocking the Cats out of contention.

Jaeschke led NU with 15 points and eight rebounds, but she struggled toward the end, missing her final four shots.

“Wisconsin, ever since I played them freshman year, has always had a great plan going in,” Jaeschke said. “They try to take me out of my element. Not only are they physical but they double-team me.”

And with Jaeschke effectively removed from the game, none of her teammates was able to fill the void.

Marshall hit just two of eight shots from the field. Hackney was no better, making just two of 11 field-goal attempts.

Wisconsin, meanwhile, won on the shoulders of its talented senior class. With three seniors in the starting lineup, the Badgers never appeared flustered, even when the Cats began clawing their way back into the game.

Senior guard Alyssa Karel hit her first four field-goal attempts for Wisconsin, and finished with 19 points. Fellow senior Lin Zastrow added 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Sophomore guard Taylor Wurtz added 13 points. According to Jaeschke, the Cats knew what kind of threat Wurtz and Karel posed going in. The two sharp-shooters combined to hit 7-of-14 three-point attempts when the Badgers defeated the Cats on January 30.

“(Karel and Wurtz) are their best shooters on their team,” Jaeschke said. “We knew that going into the game and we just didn’t guard them the way we should have.”

Thursday’s victory continues the Badgers’ climb up the conference ladder. After its December 5 loss to Oklahoma State, Wisconsin was just 2-7. Two months later, the team has won 12 of its last 15 and stands a half-game out of first place in the Big Ten.

NU, on the other hand, will try to come back Sunday against Iowa. Two of the Cats’ final four games are against teams ranked in the Top 25, and their final four foes have a combined record of 69-28.

“We got to put this behind us,” McKeown said. “We played great last week. We struggled tonight. Iowa is a big game. We’ve got a lot of things on the line.”

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