Women’s Basketball: Despite defense’s departure, Cats emerge victorious

Kevin Trahan

Northwestern rode the hot hands of Kendall Hackney and Morgan Jones Wednesday, defeating Morgan State 87-74 to improve to 8-1 on the season.

Hackney had a career-high 29 points and Jones added 20 for the Wildcats, which finished with their highest points total of the season. The Bears were unable to match up against Hackney and Jones, as the junior forward and freshman guard played well near the rim, but also were two-of-three and four-of-seven, respectively, from beyond the arc.

“For us to be good, those two are going to have to do what they did today and do it next week and throughout the Big Ten, because they have the ability to score in a lot of different ways,” coach Joe McKeown said. “That’s the biggest thing, if they can score inside and out, and in transition, for us to be good, they have to.”

The Cats started out the game on a tear, taking a 15-point lead just over six minutes into the first half, but they allowed the Bears to cut that lead to eight by halftime. NU again came out red-hot in the second half, jumping out to a 23-point advantage midway through the second half, before Morgan State drew the final deficit down with another small run.

“It was just one of those games where you pull away, they come back, you pull away, they come back,” McKeown said. “At LSU, we finished the game on a nice run. At Missouri, we finished the game on a nice run and against North Carolina State, we closed that game out well. So I know we’re capable. When you’re in that position you have to do it every game; you can’t let down.”

Jones said she was disappointed in the 74 points her team surrendered to the Bears; it was the second-highest total the Cats have surrendered all season, with only DePaul scoring more against NU.

“It is disappointing because we practice (defense) all the time and we talk about defense all the time,” she said. “To be scored that much on by Morgan State, or any team, it’s very disappointing, but all we can do is get back and practice tomorrow and perfect it.”

For the third straight game, NU was without forward Brittany Orban, who is “out indefinitely” with a torn ACL. With one of their senior leaders out for the immediate future, the Cats are looking to others to step up in her place.

“We just have a lot of weapons we’re using and we’re using them to our advantage,” Hackney said, “so we can hopefully continue to do that … and play together.”

NU’s depth will be tested in the next week as it heads to Las Vegas on Dec. 18 for the Duel in the Desert. The Cats will play three games in three days, taking on Nevada-Las Vegas, Kansas State and North Dakota State.

“We’ve got three games in a row coming up in Vegas, so that will really test where we are as a team, our depth,” McKeown said. “So that’s going to be a challenge.”

The increased physical demands of playing three games in three days will also give McKeown and his team a better idea of where they are entering Big Ten play, which begins at the end of December.

“Playing three games in three nights against really good competition, it’ll give people a chance to step up and we’ll go from there,” he said

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