It was only fitting that one of the biggest stars in Northwestern women’s basketball history would shine bright on her senior day. Senior center Amy Jaeschke willed NU to a 62-55 victory on Sunday over Minnesota with yet another dominant performance.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Jaeschke said. “I don’t really feel like it’s my last game. I don’t think it’s hit me yet. But it’s a great way to go out.”
In her final home game, Jaeschke scored 21 points and grabbed six boards to help the Wildcats and a three-game skid.
“Today was a special day for her,” coach Joe McKeown said. “For her to have the career she’s had, not just today.”
Jaeschke was one of three seniors honored Sunday afternoon, but as she has done so many times throughout her career, she commanded the spotlight with her effort. Senior guard Meshia Reed played only 14 minutes due to constant foul trouble, while an eye injury held senior guard Beth Marshall out of the game entirely.
“I’m really proud of our team for digging in, especially without Beth here, our leader on the court,” Jaeschke said of her fellow senior, who ranks third in the Big Ten in assists and first in assist to turnover ratio.
McKeown said Marshall would return to the lineup shortly, praising her ability to play through injuries.
“She’s a tough kid,” he said. “She’ll be like a cyclops and play with one eye.”
Jaeschke at times seemed to be the only player, senior or otherwise, on the floor, scoring the Cats’ first five points of the second half. Jaeschke found herself in a physical game in the post as she and Minnesota forward Katie Loberg battled for position and rebounds.
Loberg took the upper hand early on, twice getting Jaeschke up in the air on pump fakes before going underneath her for layups. Still, Jaeschke won the battle in the end, getting Loberg in foul trouble that limited her to 16 minutes on the floor.
“The first time we played Minnesota at their place, it was definitely a physical game,” Jaeschke said. “I knew that coming in to today that it wasn’t going to be easy, and it was going to be a wrestling match down low. I just tried to mentally prepare myself for that.”
Jaeschke’s willingness to take on the contact drew a lot of fouls, sending Jaeschke to the line for 12 free throws of which she made nine.
“We’re a really strong free throw shooting team, so for us to be aggressive, I think is huge,” sophomore forward Kendall Hackney said. “Going inside to Amy, they can’t stop her. That was definitely one of our strategies, and I think it worked.”
Jaeschke was able to conclude her Welsh-Ryan career on a win, something that seemed far from certain in her initial years for NU. The Cats won just five games her freshman year, before bringing in McKeown to coach. Even under McKeown, NU won only seven games during Jaeschke’s sophomore season.
“She’s had to deal with an awful lot,” McKeown said. “It will help her down the road. I think it has really challenged her. Adversity sometimes can be a good thing.”
Before heading to the locker room after the game, Jaeschke posed for photos in front of a group of fans whose signs spelled out “Amy = Kind Of A Big Deal,” a sentiment McKeown agreed with for Jaeschke as well as Reed and Marshall.
“You have three seniors that have been that committed to our program and completely helped change the culture of women’s basketball,” McKeown said. “I can’t even tell you what they mean to Northwestern basketball.”