Women’s Basketball: Northwestern snaps three-game losing skid with win over Indiana

Kevin Trahan

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In a number of his postgame press conferences, coach Joe McKeown has talked about Northwestern failing to make important shots down the stretch, which ultimately causes the Wildcats to end up on the losing end. After Sunday’s game against Indiana, the script was different.

“It was just a hard-fought, hard-nosed game that came down to the last minute,” McKeown said. “We were fortunate to make a couple plays. I thought we defended Indiana well down the stretch.”

The Cats had the lead for most of the game, and despite letting Indiana back into the contest a number of times, including within three points during the last minute, NU held off the Hoosiers for a 68-61 win.

Coming off a three-game losing streak, NU was just relieved to finally get a win.

“(It feels) much better than the last few games, that’s for sure,” junior forward Kendall Hackney said.

Hackney and fellow junior forward Dannielle Diamant, both recorded double-doubles, hitting shots from all over the floor in the process. Hackney had 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Diamant had 22 points and 11 rebounds.

Diamant did her work in just 26 minutes, as she picked up two early fouls in the first half and McKeown pulled her just seven minutes into the game. She didn’t return until the second half.

“It was definitely difficult,” Diamant said of having to sit out. “No one wants to sit on the bench and watch their team, especially when you can be out there doing something.”

While she was out, Indiana was able to go on a run, cutting an eight-point deficit with 11 minutes left before the break to just two points at halftime. However, McKeown said he was confident in NU’s reserves to hold off the Hoosiers before he was comfortable putting Diamant back in.

“The more experienced players are, the more they can play in foul trouble,” he said. “With (junior forward) Kate Popovec now, and (freshman forward) Alex Cohen, I thought they did a pretty good job in the first half.”

Returning to the game in the second half, Diamant provided a spark both on the boards and in the scoring column. She ended up putting the Hoosiers away on two late free throws after a strong drive to the basket with 15 seconds remaining in the game.

“She just gives you an inside and outside presence, and defensive rebounding, we didn’t get when she sat out,” McKeown said. “Indiana had lot of offensive rebounds in first half, a lot when she was out.”

In addition to the two forwards, the Cats were solid. Freshman guard Morgan Jones had 17 points, including four threes, and junior guard Tailor Jones had six rebounds and a big momentum-changing drive to the basket.

As a whole, the Cats were much smarter with the ball. They committed 18 turnovers, the same as their first half total in a 58-48 loss to Michigan that started the three-game losing streak.

“We worked really hard this week on trying to play inside-out and get the ball, if you have something, in transition, and if not, run your offense,” McKeown said. “That’s something we’ve been focusing on, something that we had to get better at and we were struggling with in January.”

Defensively, NU improved as well. The next step is finding consistency.

“There are days here when we’re good at (defense),” McKeown said, “and days when it looks like Swiss cheese.”

Despite the inconsistency, McKeown said he hopes this step in the right direction can lead to a late run in the conference.

“If we cut turnovers down and play better defense, I think we can compete with best teams in the Big Ten,” he said. “I don’t doubt that.”