Women’s Basketball: Northwestern hopes to earn elusive road win in Big Ten over Michigan State

Kevin Trahan

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Coming off a loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor last Thursday, Northwestern will take its second trip to the state in a week, this time visiting Michigan State in East Lansing.

The Wildcats (13-10, 3-7 Big Ten) will look to pick up their first road win since Jan. 8 when they beat last place Indiana. They played well on the road early in the season, beating Louisiana State and Missouri, but have struggled to do the same in conference play, with four road losses coming by an average of 18 points.

Junior forward Dannielle Diamant said that playing on the road doesn’t bother the Cats any more than playing at home. Rather, tough Big Ten opposition has given them trouble.

“I would say it’s the competition,” she said, “Playing on the road really doesn’t make a difference. Basketball is basketball.”

Freshman point guard Karly Roser agreed that the experience of playing on the road isn’t the problem. She said the Cats have hurt themselves in those games.

“At points it’s just kind of a lack of focus, not so much that we’re on the road,” she said. “I take that as motivation, feeding off of the crowd and wanting to prove them wrong.”

NU expects a big crowd and a tough environment for Thursday’s game in the Breslin Center, which is widely regarded as one of the premier basketball facilities in the Big Ten.

“They usually have a great crowd there,” coach Joe McKeown said. “They usually have seven-to-eight thousand people at the game.”

Regardless of the crowd, McKeown said he hopes that his team can continue to improve, after a solid 1-1 stretch that was preceded by three straight losses. McKeown was pleased with how his team has improved, but said that the Cats need to play a full 40 minutes, like they did in a win against Indiana on Jan. 29.

“We made a great play at the end of the game against Indiana,” he said. “We tied the game (against Michigan on Feb. 2) in the second half, but didn’t make enough plays. We have to carry over the positives from both games.”

The Spartans (14-9, 6-4) have had an up-and-down conference season as well, starting their Big Ten slate off with four straight wins, then four straight losses. Now, Michigan State has put together a two-game winning streak, beating No. 18 Penn State at home and Michigan on the road.

Diamant knows that it will be a tough game, even though the Spartans aren’t “the same team” they were last year, when they were the Big Ten regular season champions.

“It will be a challenge for myself to buckle down on defense,” she said. “As a team, we have to play well together and play like we know how. I still don’t think we’re playing up to our full potential. We’re looking to show everyone what we’ve got.”

Roser said NU is still looking to improve one game at a time, but knows that big wins, like one against Michigan State on the road, could help propel the Cats into the NCAA Tournament.

“We just want to be eligible for the tournament and go as long as we can into March,” she said. “We always want to get wins so we can be eligible for the tournament.”

However, McKeown said he isn’t focused on March or the win total, just on improving each game.

“I don’t think that’s a thing coaches really get into, as far as numbers,” he said. “I’d rather us get better and compete. When you do that it’ll work itself out.”