The Daily Northwestern

Women’s Basketball: Healthier Cats halt losing streak, top Hoosiers

Kevin Trahan and Kevin Trahan

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On the heels of three straight losses, Northwestern was finally able to grind out a win Sunday, holding off a late Indiana comeback bid for a 69-61 win. It was the first Big Ten win for the Cats (11-5, 1-2 Big Ten) and a big momentum-booster moving forward, junior forward Dannielle Diamant said.

“Coming off three straight losses, this game could really be a turnaround point for us,” Diamant said. “We needed this win to prove to ourselves that we can play up to our potential.”

After struggling due to a sprained ankle in the last few games, Diamant came through in the clutch for NU on Sunday, hitting five of six free throws in the last 31 seconds to ice the game and scoring the final nine points for the Cats to finish with a team-high of 20 points for the day.

“To get her back and get 20 points and nine rebounds, we missed her,” coach Joe McKeown said. “Our players, when she’s on the court, they look for her, and she has the ability to score.”

NU needed every one of those points, as it had a 17-point lead midway through the second half, but allowed the Hoosiers (5-12, 0-4) back to within three with 32 seconds left. Indiana could not get any closer after that.

Junior forward Kendall Hackney said she was happy, but not surprised, with Diamant’s late-game heroics.

“I wouldn’t want to have anyone else at the line besides (Diamant),” Hackney said. “Having her step up and ice the game, she’s been in that situation before and she’s never fallen through.”

While Diamant was sensational at the end of the game, NU had a number of other players step up, with four players in double digits for points. Diamant’s 20-point performance was complemented by 15 points from Hackney and freshman guard Morgan Jones, and 11 points from freshman point guard Karly Roser.

“We have a lot of players who are really capable,” McKeown said.

With the team getting healthier – specifically Diamant – NU has been able to find solid scoring options all over the floor. The Cats have had a different leading scorer in each of the last four games.

Because of Diamant’s recovery, NU was able to find an offensive rhythm that had been lacking during the three-game losing streak.

“We’ve had a couple rough losses these past few games, but our team has really come together,” Hackney said. “Everyone’s just doing what they can as a team to make each other better. Finally, it just came together on the court today.”

Defensively, NU improved as well, holding its opponent to 61 points or less for the first time since its last win – Dec. 20 against North Dakota State. The defense was especially important down the stretch, as the Cats locked down in the clutch. More importantly, they didn’t panic.

“We had a pretty substantial lead and I think we handled (the comeback) pretty well,” Hackney said. “We know how to focus on defense and get stops. If they make a couple shots, it’s fine.”

McKeown said the win was extremely important, momentum-wise, as NU moves forward, despite the struggles in the last few minutes.

“We needed a win, and to do it on the road and get up 17 – obviously we struggled there on that stretch (near the end of the game) – we needed a confidence-builder,” McKeown said. “Our players feel good about it.”

The Cats face another tough road test Thursday, as they head to Columbus to face No. 8 Ohio State. Hackney hopes to see the team improve again after getting back in the win column.

“Hopefully we can just continue to build,” she said.

kevintrahan2015@u.northwestern.edu

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