Women’s Basketball: NU rebounds from DePaul loss with smackdown of North Carolina State

Chris Johnson

Freshmen Morgan Jones and Karly Roser led Northwestern to a 76-59 win over North Carolina State at Welsh-Ryan Arena Wednesday, combining for 37 points in the victory.

Jones was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for her efforts against LSU and DePaul last week, but Wednesday may have marked her most impressive performance of the young season. The Florida native scored 27 points and notched 11 rebounds against the Wolfpack, both career highs.

“I was just hot,” Jones said. “My team and coaches know that I can shoot the ball. So, it’s just about knocking shots down. And tonight, I was knocking them down.”

North Carolina State’s athletic and aggressive play early in the first half challenged NU, which led by just four with 12:08 remaining. But a pair of threes from Jones and one apiece from junior forwards Danielle Diamant and Kendall Hackney widened that margin until it reached 16 seven minutes later.

The Wildcats suffered a major blow with 5:40 remaining in the opening period when senior forward Brittany Orban went down with what appeared to be a serious knee injury. Orban was clutching her right knee, and required assistance to walk off the court. The senior returned to the bench in the second half, but didn’t see any game action. Roser said that Orban’s injury inspired NU to play harder.

“We all just came together and tried to play like a team,” Roser said. “It allowed other people to step up. We wanted to win for her.”

NU seemed to suffer from Orban’s absence when North Carolina State cranked out a quick 7-0 run to begin the second half. This cut the Cats’ sizeable, 13-point halftime lead to six. But Jones responded with two threes in a 30-second span, killing the Wolfpack’s momentum.

“They were getting up, trying to fluster us,” Jones said. “It was just a matter of taking control. So we just kept calm and kept thinking about the next possession. And knocking down those shots definitely helped.”

North Carolina State would pull within three with less than ten minutes remaining, but a Meghan McKeown three sparked an 8-2 run for NU that put the game out of reach. The sophomore contributed to a fine performance from the bench that coach Joe McKeown said was crucial in the Cats’ win.

“Our players responded well,” McKeown said. “Our bench really stepped up tonight. Even though we had some turnovers, those guys really helped us.”

The Cats’ 29 giveaways Wednesday marked a season-high. McKeown said that cutting down on turnovers will be especially important in the latter part of the season.

“You don’t want to turn the ball over,” McKeown said. “I’m disappointed that we didn’t execute better. We’re not going to win a lot of games in February and March if we turn the ball over that much.”

Still, the Cats’ myriad turnovers weren’t enough to cost them in late November, as Wednesday’s win helped the team rebound from Sunday’s 88-72 loss to in-state rival DePaul. The Cats’ victory in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge marked the third of four consecutive games against major conference teams, a somewhat rare feat during non-conference play.

“It definitely makes a statement, beating different teams from different conferences,” Jones said. “Going into the Big Ten season, it’s definitely going to say something.”

The Cats next travel to Columbia, Mo., for a matchup with Big XII foe Missouri in the second annual Big Ten/Big XII Challenge. The Tigers are 7-0 and coming off a 30-point victory over Wright State.

“To play on the road, you have to be ready to play,” McKeown said. “We have to go back and look at tonight’s game and try and clean up some things. You just try to stay focused on your next opponent.”

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