Women’s Basketball: Cats deal out misery in Missouri, downing Tigers 74-70

Kevin Trahan

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Northwestern continued to slog its way through a difficult non-conference schedule Saturday, eking out a 74-70 win at Missouri.

Junior forward Kendall Hackney led the Wildcats (6-1) with 20 points, while junior center Dannielle Diamant added 18, helping their team overcome a second-half deficit against the Tigers (5-1).

“It was just a hard-fought, physical, emotional game,” coach Joe McKeown said. “We just made a lot of free throws down the stretch and we made big plays when we had to. Dannielle stepped up and made every free throw at the end.”

Diamant hit a big three-pointer with 3:42 remaining in the contest to pull the Cats within three points, and after NU pulled ahead, hit four straight free throws to put the game away.

“Obviously I was off for most of the game,” Diamant said. “I was just trying to do whatever I could to help my team. I’m fully comfortable with shooting free throws and they kept fouling.”

Diamant and Hackney played aggressively down low, forcing numerous Missouri fouls. The frontcourt duo took advantage: Diamant made all 10 of her free-throw attempts and Hackney hit four-of-five from the charity stripe.

“Something I’ve been trying to do is get to the free-throw line,” Hackney said. “I was focusing on being strong and they were fouling. They did a really good job defending us. Dannielle made a ton of free throws for us.”

NU was able to find success down low, despite the absence of senior forward Brittany Orban, who was injured Wednesday against North Carolina State. McKeown isn’t certain about Orban’s status going forward – he said he will evaluate that on Monday – but Hackney said the Cats missed her presence on the court against the Tigers.

“Not having her out there is killer for us,” Hackney said. “She just has an aspect about her that you can’t teach anybody. Losing her right now has been really tough.”

While he would have rather seen her on the court, McKeown said he was happy with Orban’s leadership skills from the bench.

“She was with us and she did a great job on the bench, being a leader,” he said. “Just her attitude, she’s just one of those heart-and-soul-type players.”

Orban’s absence gave other players the opportunity to step up and gain experience against a formidable foe.

“We are a young team and to play teams like (Missouri) who are physical – in the Big Ten, the teams we play are extremely physical – getting experience now is huge for us,” Hackney said.

With their win over the Tigers, the Cats completed a string of four consecutive games against major-conference teams, and Diamant said that will pay off when it comes time for Big Ten play.

“Big Ten teams are all physical,” she said. “(All four teams) have been physical teams and that helps us get ready for Big Ten play.”

NU now gets a one-week break before facing Loyola (Chicago) on the road Saturday. McKeown said his team has things to work on before then, but he was happy to get the win.

“It wasn’t pretty,” he said, “but we’ll take it and try to learn from it.”