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Women’s Basketball: NU moves on to second round of WNIT, beats Creighton 89-63

Jonah L. Rosenblum

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After Northwestern mustered just 25 points against Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals, senior point guard Beth Marshall made a bold prediction.

“I’m confident in all of my teammates’ shooting,” Marshall said. “Sometimes, you just have bad nights. I know our next game we’ll probably come out on fire.”

Marshall was right: The Wildcats made five of their first seven shots Thursday, jumping out to a 24-14 lead and never looking back as they defeated Creighton 89-63 in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.

When one of the players was asked about the discrepancy between the Michigan State and Creighton point totals, coach Joe McKeown piped in a one-word answer from the back of the room: “amnesia.”

“Joe told us in the locker room that when we scored our 26th point, he gave a fist pump because that was more than we had last game, but that went over a lot of my teammates’ heads,” sophomore forward Kendall Hackney said. “We decided that this is a new tournament and that we were going to have amnesia after the Michigan State loss.”

NU was lifted by three standout performances from their three seniors. Marshall finished with nine points and five assists. Center Amy Jaeschke finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds, while guard Meshia Reed had a season-high 16 points.

“The senior class this year is amazing,” Hackney said. “I look to them on the court. When things are going down, I look to Beth. I look to Amy. I look to Meshia to keep their cool.”

The seniors ultimately pooled 41 points, nearly half of the team’s total offensive output.

“For all the seniors to score like that, it just shows they work so hard,” Hackney said. “They’re just reaping the rewards from all the hard work this season. They definitely deserve it.”

Thursday also marked an opportunity for Marshall to play another game at Welsh-Ryan Arena, after she sat out Senior Day against Minnesota with an eye injury.

“To have an opportunity to play again is a great thing,” McKeown said. “For her, it just meant a lot, because Meshia and Amy got to play against Minnesota and played great. Beth really had to celebrate that but had to watch and she’s a tough little competitor and that was really hard for her.”

The Cats jumped out to a quick advantage Thursday, led by a sophomore. Hackney scored 12 of NU’s first 22 points to give her team a double-digit lead. Most impressively, the Cats took their lead without any scoring from their senior center. Jaeschke averages 21.6 points per game, but struggled early against the Bluejays’ aggressive interior defense.

“Amy gets double-teamed going to Subway,” McKeown said. “We didn’t force passes into the post. Instead of forcing them into Amy, we got the ball to other people. They made shots.”

After scoring 24 points in the first eight minutes of the contest, the Cats went nearly four minutes without a score, allowing Creighton to draw within four points. That’s when Jaeschke got on the scoreboard with a layup.

In just 12 minutes of play, NU had scored more than it had in the entirety of its postseason loss to Michigan State. Meanwhile, Jaeschke’s layup sparked a personal run, as the senior ended the first half with a double-double, her 15th double-double of the season. Meanwhile, the Cats ended the half on a 14-4 run to take a 15-point lead into the locker room.

The comfortable lead allowed McKeown to put everyone in the game, as no NU player played less than 13 minutes Thursday.

“They played at times too when the game was undecided,” McKeown said. “Our bench was terrific. All of those guys gave us big minutes. That’s our future too so you want them to be able to play in the postseason and get some confidence.”

Hackney led the Cats with 21 points, draining her first six field-goal attempts. She finished 9-for-12 from the field, and also added six rebounds.

“Just as a teammate, I’m constantly trying to encourage and tell Kendall to have fun and play, because that’s when she does her best,” Marshall said. “That was obvious tonight that Kendall was just playing basketball and having fun, because she played amazing. Her shots were falling and she was great on defense.”

Ultimately, its not difficult to understand how NU won this game. The offense was in sync, as the Cats hit 55 percent of their attempts from the field, and they turned the ball over just nine times.

“Creighton presses and we handled the press well,” McKeown said. “When we don’t turn the ball over, we’re a pretty good basketball team.”

In addition to his team’s easy victory, McKeown received another gift at the end of his press conference, when he learned the Cats would be staying home for the second round of the WNIT. NU will host Alabama on Sunday.

jonahrosenblum2012@u.northwestern.edu

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