Women’s basketball: Northwestern looks to make it three straight over Ohio State

Steven Montero

Northwestern is at a turning point in its season: heading to Columbus to tackle No. 11 Ohio State Thursday.

The Wildcats finally got back into the win column with Sunday’s victory at Indiana, but a tougher test stands in their way. Ohio State suffered its first loss of the season last Saturday against Michigan.

However, the Buckeyes are still undefeated on their home court this season and will attempt to avenge their two losses to the Cats last season.

NU upset then-No. 24 Ohio State last January and then went into Columbus and beat the Buckeyes yet again.

Freshman guard Morgan Jones said Ohio State has a “chip on their shoulder” due to the double-punch defeats last season but that the playing field remains equal.

“They lost Jantel Lavender, who is a great player, and we lost Amy Jaeschke, who is a great player,” Jones said. “I think we’re even now again. I don’t feel like it’s any pressure. Both us and Ohio State know that we have to compete and that it will be a good competition.”

Playing in Value City Arena proved difficult for every other Buckeye opponent this year so far. Coach Joe McKeown said NU has to eliminate distractions from the crowd and environment, much like the team did last season.

“They have a great crowd every single game,” senior guard Allison Mocchi said. “The atmosphere is crazy and intense. We can’t let it overwhelm us, not let them have the home court advantage in the sense that we give them the ball or make turnovers or we beat ourselves.”

The real threats to the Cats will be Ohio State guards Samantha Prahalis and Tayler Hill. The duo averages 40 points per game, with Hill leading the Big Ten with 21.3 points per game.

“It’s a big challenge because they’re both great players,” McKeown said. “You know, you’re not going to completely shut them down. You have to just try to defend them every possession and go from there.”

Luckily for NU, the string of injuries that has haunted the team since December is starting to vanish. Against the Hoosiers, Dannielle Diamant came back strong from a sprained ankle she suffered in NU’s matchup with Toledo. Mocchi said Diamant’s health is “20 points better,” referring to the total points the junior forward scored in Sunday’s game.

“We stay together as a team,” Mocchi said. “When someone’s hurt or struggling physically or mentally or just missing shots, someone else on the team steps up. In that sense we’re fully recovered and ready to go for Thursday.”

Despite Ohio State’s ranked status and home record, Mocchi said NU approaches the game with the same intensity as any other opponent. Jones said teamwork and spreading points among all the players will help in their endeavor for a third consecutive win over the Buckeyes.

“I don’t think it’s intimidating at all,” McKeown said. “It gives you a challenge to step up to. When you aspire to be a great team at the end of the year, these are the games you love playing. These are a lot of fun.”

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