Women’s Basketball: Northwestern unable to overcome second-half defecit in loss to Michigan

Steven Montero

The Wildcats suffered their second loss this season to the Wolverines on Thursday, creating a second-half surge that fell short as Michigan prevailed, 79-68.

Northwestern was down 34-23 at the half but built up a strong offense on the hot hands of freshman guard Morgan Jones and junior forward Dannielle Diamant. The Cats would tie it at 44 with just more than 11 minutes to play, but the Wolverines responded with fierce runs of their own to shoot their lead back into the double digits.

“We can’t get so far behind in the first half because then we have to struggle in the second just to get back,” Diamant said. “It’s hard for us to pull ahead when we have to work our way back the whole time.”

Coach Joe McKeown said NU wasn’t shooting well in the first half. The Cats went 8-for-21 from the floor during the opening stanza.

Diamant said Michigan’s defense was very aggressive and that they knew how to stop NU. The Cats emphasized working through their offense, moving the ball in and out, but the Wolverines wouldn’t let NU capitalize off this strategy. Diamant added that even when the offense created open looks, the shots weren’t falling.

Jones said the Cats will have to learn how to play against this type of defense because upcoming Big Ten competitors will use it too.

“The Michigan defense wasn’t an outstanding defense,” Jones said. “It was definitely a beatable defense. We’ve played against it many times. It was just the path looked open, and it wasn’t when we got there. Michigan did a good job with help-side coming over and doubling.”

Under pressure from the Wolverines and trying to recover from a poor first half, the Cats searched for an answer. NU’s top scorers, Diamant and junior forward Kendall Hackney, had gotten into foul trouble, both finishing with four personals.

McKeown said he was forced to sit Hackney at times, which hurt the team. Jones added that it was hard to muster enough offense without the Cats’ usual firepower on the court.

“We were struggling,” Jones said. “We needed other looks offensively. We were usually going to Dannielle a lot, and they were double-teaming her so somebody else had to step up and start penetrating the basket.”

Jones took charge, scoring a game-high 25 points, 16 of which came in the second half and 12 coming from the line. Diamant also contributed a 20-point performance.

“They don’t matter because they didn’t get the win,” Jones said. “That’s really what matters the most. It would have been awesome if I could’ve done it and Kendall and Dannielle were hitting it and everybody was flowing. I’m okay with how I played, but it would have been nice to have my teammates definitely contribute tonight. It was just an off night.”

A “learning experience” is what McKeown called Jones’ performance Thursday. He said he was really proud of her, especially rising to the top as a freshman. The third-highest points of the night came from fellow starting freshman guard Karly Roser. She managed 10, including the game-tying layup in the second half.

McKeown said a positive note was the serious decrease in turnovers from NU’s last matchup with Michigan. In the Jan. 19 contest, which NU lost 58-48, the Cats racked up 18 turnovers just in the first half – the same number of turnovers NU committed throughout the entire game Thursday.

“Obviously it’s very disappointing,” Diamant said. “We were expecting it to be definitely a lot closer game than it was. We didn’t play to our potential.”

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