Women’s Basketball: Wildcats ramble their way to a 7-1 record, downing Loyola

Chris Johnson

Northwestern tallied another victory in the Sheridan Road rivalry, beating Loyola 72-67 at Gentile Arena on Saturday.

Danielle Diamant and Kendall Hackney led the way for the Wildcats, each notching 20 points in the win. The juniors contributed heavily to NU’s 32 points in the paint. Loyola finished with just 12.

“We’ve all really been trying to work the ball inside and out,” Hackney said. “I definitely felt that we had a size advantage inside. Danielle and I were able to take advantage of that.”

The Ramblers hit three triples to jump out to a 15-3 advantage just more than seven minutes in. But a strong defensive effort allowed the Cats to pull within six by the nine-minute mark.

“Early on, all the shots they took seemed to go in,” coach Joe McKeown said. “But even though we weren’t making shots, we were able to make a nice comeback. Thankfully we were good enough to battle back from that.”

Saturday marked Hackney’s second straight 20-point performance. Morgan Jones, who received her second consecutive Big Ten Freshman of the Week Award on Monday, added 16 points, five rebounds and five assists.

The freshman guard started out just one-for-eight from the field, but her back-to-back threes with just less than two minutes to play in the first half were key in NU’s comeback effort.

“Mentally we weren’t as ready as we should have been and we underestimated them a little bit,” Hackney said. “But we hit some big shots. We just have to learn to throw the first punch.”

The Cats got off to a hot start in the second half, rattling off a 9-2 run within the first four minutes. But the Ramblers responded with a 7-2 run of their own, punctuated by two threes from Preseason All-Horizon League second team selection Monica Albano.

NU dominated the next seven minutes, outscoring Loyola 16-3 to take a 59-44 lead. That marked the Cats’ largest lead of the day, but they needed clutch free throws from Diamant to stave off a barrage of threes from the Ramblers in the game’s final minute. The junior was 9-of-10 from the charity stripe on Saturday and has hit 19 for her last 20 overall.

“Free-throw shooting is one of those things that’s really important if you want to win games,” Diamant said. “They made some big threes to make it close. When you have a team that shoots as well as they do, you need to get those easy points. I feel totally fine stepping up to the line when the game is on the line.”

Senior forward Brittany Orban missed her second consecutive game due to a knee injury she sustained during NU’s victory over North Carolina State on Nov. 30. McKeown said that the captain will be reevaluated early next week.

“Not having Brittany Orban has been really tough on our team,” McKeown said. “But like any situation, we just need to adjust and step up.”

With the win, the Cats improved to 7-1 on the year. NU has now won three straight after falling to local rival DePaul on Nov. 27. The Cats will take on MEAC foe Morgan State Wednesday at Welsh-Ryan Arena before traveling to Las Vegas for the BTI invitational on Dec. 18.

“Coming off the finals week when we had a lot of time off, this was a good performance,” McKeown said. “But we’ve definitely got some things to work on before we play some tough games coming up.”

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