After Diamant’s injury, Rockets soar past Cats, 75-56

Kevin Trahan

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In what was supposed to its last tune-up game before conference play begins on Friday, Northwestern was severely outplayed by Toledo in a 75-56 loss Tuesday in Evanston.

The Wildcats hit just 36.4 percent of their shots from the floor, including a 22.2 percent clip from three-point range, as the Rockets came out hot and used two big second-half runs to pull away down the stretch.

“Definitely, Toledo came out ready to play,” freshman guard Morgan Jones said. “They hit a lot of big shots. On offense, we didn’t hit a lot of big shots.”

Jones led the Cats with 18 points, while junior forward Kendall Hackney added 10 and freshman guard Karly Roser had nine.

However, NU struggled to get much going offensively, especially down low, due in no small part to the loss of forward Dannielle Diamant early in the game. With Diamant gone and senior forward Brittany Orban still “out indefinitely” with a torn ACL, the Cats found themselves significantly handicapped in the post.

“Any time you lose a 6-5 post, it hurts the team, especially when that’s not the plan,” Jones said.

Coach Joe McKeown refused to make excuses, but admitted that losing Diamant hurt his team inside.

“Dannielle got hurt early and that kind of took away our size advantage,” he said, adding that he doesn’t have any details on Diamant’s injury or on how long she will be out. “After that it was really playing catch-up.”

In addition to their struggles down low, the Cats also struggled with their shot selection, according to Roser.

“(We were) trying to force things because things weren’t going our way,” she said.

NU also struggled on defense for much of the game. Roser indicated that Toledo had too many offensive rebounds and McKeown said that his team’s poor defensive play enabled Toledo to go on runs.

“Defensively, we just broke down at the wrong time,” he said. “That and they just made open threes at the right time.”

Despite Tuesday’s struggles on both sides of the ball, Roser found a positive note going forward.

“They’re things that are fixable,” she said.

The Cats will have to “fix” their issues on offense and defense quickly, as they travel to Iowa City on Friday to take on the Hawkeyes in their Big Ten opener. To McKeown, Friday marks the start of a new season and a new opportunity. However, he said he was happy with his team’s first “season,” given the circumstances, even though it ended in disappointing fashion.

“To go 10-3 non-conference, college basketball is really three seasons, and the first season we thought we did a great job,” he said. “10-3 with adversity and a lot of injuries, it’s tough.”

NU will not have much time to rest up, with only a two-day break leading up to the Iowa game. However, McKeown said he is confident that his team will be fine for the conference opener.

“We’ve got no choice,” he said. “We’ll be ready to play Friday.”