Women’s Basketball: Freshmen run free for McKeown

Kevin Trahan

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Morgan Jones is all about making statements on the court.

That’s what she called Northwestern’s win over No. 20 LSU on Nov. 22 and that’s the term she used once again after the Wildcats took down North Carolina State, 76-59, on Wednesday.

“It definitely makes a statement beating teams in different conferences,” the freshman guard said. “The one loss to DePaul, we took that loss hard. We beat an ACC team. If we beat the Big 12 (NU beat Missouri on Sunday), that says something about Northwestern; it will definitely say something.”

Jones made her biggest statement of the season in the Cats’ win over the Wolfpack, putting up 27 points and 11 rebounds, both career highs. In addition to Jones’ career day, freshman guard Karly Roser recorded her second double-double of the season, finishing with 10 points and 10 assists.

Together, Jones and Roser have stepped up as leaders on an NU team that’s full of young talent. Besides their obvious talent, both freshmen possess the confidence and game-managing skills of veterans, according to coach Joe McKeown.

“If you’re a head coach who has been around as long as I have,” he said, “when you sign high school All-Americans, the college game is so different than what they see in high school, but I think (Jones and Roser) are mature beyond their years.”

Just seven games into a long season, Jones and Roser have already made a clear impact.

Jones hit two free throws to give the Cats the lead in the closing seconds of their win over the Tigers, and she also hit some big shots Wednesday night, draining two three-pointers to help NU pull away after North Carolina State had climbed back into the game.

Roser was a leader from the start, running the point for the Cats right out of the gate.

One of the reasons for both players’ fast starts is their ability to maintain confidence, even when the Cats begin to lose momentum. Their fearless attitude helped them maintain their poise even as the Wolfpack mounted a big run midway through the second half to get back in the game.

“I wouldn’t say we were worried,” Roser said. “We were just kind of upset with our defense. Morgan hit some big shots and then we went on our own little run.”

Those “big shots” hadn’t been falling for Jones earlier this season, but her confidence in her abilities – she was a top ten recruit coming out of high school – helped her maintain focus during her shooting drought.

“The past couple of games, personally, I’ve just been struggling with my shot,” Jones said. “It’s just a matter of continuing to play and shots will fall. It’s just getting hot. My team, my coaches and everybody know that I can shoot the ball.”

Jones and Roser have thrived under McKeown, who has shown confidence in both freshmen, not only in putting them on the court, but in giving them the freedom to make their own decisions.

“Coach has complete faith in us and our team,” Jones said. “He gives us the green light to run.”

McKeown works hard to stay even keel; as he said, “I’m still digesting Thanksgiving dinner.”

However, it has become increasingly clear that his freshman duo is capable of making a strong statement in the Big Ten.