Paralyzed by injuries, Cats limp their way to the finish line against Hawkeyes

Kevin Trahan

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Northwestern coach Joe McKeown likes to stress defense as key to his team’s success.

The message doesn’t appear to have sunk in. For the second straight game, the Wildcats’ defense faltered, as Iowa blew NU out, 86-55.

The Hawkeyes hit 45.6 percent of their shots from the floor, including a 44.4 percent clip from three-point land. Jamie Printy led Iowa with 20 points and eight assists. The Cats shot just 33.3 percent from the field and 24 perecent from beyond the arc. They were paced by freshman guard Karly Roser’s career-high 14 points.

“Not to take anything away from them – they’re a great shooting team – but a lot of the ones they missed were wide open, ” senior guard Allison Mocchi said.

The Hawkeyes made a lot of their wide open threes as well, hitting eight of their first nine attempts from beyond the arc. The Cats were able to keep up for a while – the two teams were knotted at 15 with 11:22 left in the first half – but Iowa subsequently went on a 20-3 run and NU could not recover.

“Our defense left a lot to be desired,” McKeown said. “Between now and next Thursday, that has to be the whole focal point of our practice. There are no excuses when you leave players wide open who can shoot, which is what we did.”

While McKeown prefers to avoid excuses, injuries have taken their toll on NU, especially down low. The absence of forward Brittany Orban, who is “out indefinitely” with a torn ACL, has hurt the Cats’ inside and transition games.

Forward Dannielle Diamant, who left Tuesday’s game against Toledo with a sprained ankle, played Friday, but was largely ineffective due to lingering effects from that injury, lasting just 20 minutes on the court and accumulating only six points.

The Cats’ suddenly barebones assortment of post players allowed Iowa to out-rebound NU, 45-35. Injuries also contributed to a lack of depth, as the Cats struggled to get positive minutes from their bench. They received just 10 points from their bench on Friday, compared to the Hawkeyes’ 29.

In the midst of the Cats’ struggles down low and off the bench, Roser put together perhaps her best performance of the season, finishing with a career-high 14 points.

“I think I felt a little more confident, offensively,” Roser said, “and took more shots.”

McKeown said he was impressed with that newfound confidence.

“Every game she plays, she’ll get better,” he said. “She was more aggressive, offensively, and that’s something we want her to do. I’m excited about her future, obviously.”

However, in the immediate future, NU has a lot of work to do in order to snap its current two-game losing streak. With nearly a week off between its last and upcoming games, the Cats should have plenty of time to rest up and recover from injuries, but McKeown is more interested in making sure his team has a solid week of practice.

“Just being able to practice at a high level and compete every day, ” he said, “has to be a focal point of what we do.”