Women’s Basketball: Cats drop game on bad rebounding

Jonah Rosenblum

Seeking a signature win to improve its NCAA tournament berth chances, Northwestern let No. 11 Michigan State simply grab the game away Thursday night. The Spartans out-rebounded the Wildcats 45-29 en route to a 74-60 victory in East Lansing.

Michigan State capitalized on 23 offensive boards for 13 second-chance points, several of them coming at key times for the Spartans as they pulled away late.

“We just had tremendous opportunities the last five minutes and let it slip away,” coach Joe McKeown said. “Everything came down to giving up offensive rebounds. Michigan State just beat us to the ball.”

The Cats went without a rebound for a six-minute stretch that didn’t conclude until Michigan State had already built a comfortable 14 point lead with 42 seconds remaining.

“We struggled a lot when we were in zone, trying to find a man to box out,” senior center Amy Jaeschke said. “It’s something that we’ve worked vigorously on in practice, so it was so unacceptable the fact that we didn’t rebound.”

NU hung tight with the Big Ten-leading Spartans through much of the game and led 56-54 with 6:42 remaining. But the Cats unraveled in final minutes, as they’ve done several times this season, ceding an 20-4 run to the Spartans to close out the game. Michigan State scored the final nine points of the game.

“It is critical for us to finally put our foot down and as a team, get together and decide in the last four minutes, we’re not going to allow any team to outscore us,” junior forward Brittany Orban said. “We really just have to focus on the little things within the last four minutes.”

Despite shooting just 38.6 percent from the floor to the Cats’ 46.2 percent, the Spartans attempted 18 more shots.

“We forced them to take shots a little outside of what they wanted to do,” McKeown said. “We did what we wanted as far as making them miss. It’s just a huge difference giving them two shots. To me, that was the game.”

Michigan State converted NU’s 15 turnovers into 17 points, while the Cats got just eight points off turnovers.

The Spartans had five players with five or more rebounds, including forward Cetera Washington, who led all players with 12 boards. Forward Lykendra Johnson led Michigan State with 19 points and eight rebounds, five of them offensive boards. Forward Kalisha Keane also contributed 17 points.

Jaeschke led all scorers with 25 points, but was shut down for much of the second half. Jaeschke had 16 points and five boards in the first half, but the Big Ten’s fifth-best rebounder grabbed just one rebound in the second half.

“We were able to get their starting post player (Johnson) in foul trouble early, so I was able to attack her offensively,” Jaeschke said. “She was on me most of the second half and she’s a great defender”

Orban added 11 points, all of them coming in the second half, but NU as a team only mustered 24 points after halftime. Floor leader Beth Marshall struggled through a rough performance, missing all nine of her field goal attempts.

Behind an impressive first half, NU looked poised to pull off the upset. The Cats led 36-33 and presented a much stronger effort on the glass. Michigan State only outrebounded the Cats by three in the first half, while NU’s tight defense held the Spartans to 33 percent shooting.

“It’s really disappointing that we were unable to pull away the win,” Jaeschke said. “But at the same time we can take some positives from the game, knowing that we could stick with their team for 34 minutes.”

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