Women’s Basketball: Northwestern prepares for LSU and the Battle of Baton Rouge

Chris Johnson

Northwestern faces its first ranked opponent Tuesday when it travels to Baton Rouge, La. to take on No. 20 Louisiana State.

This will be the Wildcats’ first game since their 69-62 win over Illinois State on Thursday, their third consecutive victory to kick off the young 2011-12 campaign. Although the Cats bring an undefeated record into their contest with the Tigers, senior Brittany Orban said Tuesday’s contest will mark their toughest challenge of the season.

“They have the confidence to go out there and play with anyone,” Orban said. “We know it’s going to be a tough game, but really, any team is beatable. We’ve had success so far. It’s just a matter of executing.”

Louisiana State lost to Tulane on Saturday, but preceded that loss with an 11-point win over then-No. 14 Georgetown.

Senior forward LaSondra Barrett leads the Tigers with 12.7 points and 2.3 steals per game this season. Barrett is one of many reasons why this Louisiana State team will be a good test for NU, freshman Morgan Jones said.

“I’ve played against a lot of these girls before, so I know them pretty well,” Jones said. “They’re really athletic and they use a lot of presses and traps. It’s going to be a great test for us.”

Jones played in the esteemed McDonald’s All-American game on March 30 and was the No. 9 senior recruit in the country, according to the ESPNU HoopGurlz rankings. Just three games into her Cats career, the 6-foot-2-inch wing player has lived up to expectations, averaging 10.3 points and just under six rebounds per game.

NU has also reaped early rewards from another highly touted recruit, Karly Roser. The freshman point guard received Big Ten Rookie of the Week honors last week, the first NU player to receive the award since Kendall Hackney on Feb. 8, 2010. Orban said Roser’s play will be crucial in Tuesday night’s matchup.

“Karly has really been a wonderful addition,” Orban said. “She’s done a great job helping us capitalize on turnovers and fast breaks. And I feel like that’s something we’re really going to need on Tuesday.”

Roser’s up-tempo style paid off for the Cats over their past two games, during which they scored a combined 41 fast break points, compared to just 13 apiece from their two opponents: Illinois State and Western Kentucky.

The last time these two squads met, the Cats edged the Tigers in Evanston, 71-62, behind 28 points from WNBA draftee Amy Jaeschke and 17 rebounds from Orban.

Coach Joe McKeown said this game is not as important as a Big Ten matchup but expects a result similar to last season.

“In these non-conference games, you’re really just trying to get better,” McKeown said. “They’re going to come at us fast and hard. But I feel like we’re ready. I feel like we can be successful.”

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