Women’s Basketball: Nebraska to test banged-up Northwestern’s depth

Steven Montero

Northwestern needs to play a full 40 minutes Thursday in order to take down a Nebraska team which has found much success in its first season of Big Ten play.

The Cornhuskers (19-5, 8-4 Big Ten) are ranked fourth in the conference but have lost their last two games against Michigan and Minnesota.

Coach Joe McKeown said Nebraska’s losing streak will motivate it to beat NU (13-12, 3-9), which has struggled with injuries and adversity throughout its season. He emphasized the loss of junior forward Dannielle Diamant due to injury against Michigan State as a major blow to the team in its last two games.

McKeown said he does not know whether Diamant will play Thursday.

Senior guard Allison Mocchi said NU will concentrate on its own efforts in the upcoming matchup.

“What we’ve been doing the whole season is focusing on ourselves and not worrying as much about the opponent,” Mocchi said. “Having said that, we’re all a little frustrated because we know we’re such a great team, but we haven’t put all the pieces together quite yet. We’re just working on playing as a team and playing a full 40 minutes.”

Mocchi added the Cats’ defense worked on communication and stopping key players since their 77-63 loss to Penn State, in which NU could not hold back the Nittany Lions after successful runs to the basket on the offensive side of the court. She said the Cats need to give the full 30 seconds of the shot clock every time they are defending the basket.

Nebraska leads the Big Ten in rebounding offense and is in second position for the number of offensive and defensive rebounds. They also lead the conference from behind the arc, cranking out 7.5 3-pointers per game.

“They’re a solid team all around,” Mocchi said. “They have players who can do a little bit of everything. They have a 6 foot-2-inch player (forward Jordan Hooper) who can shoot deep 3s, and it’s going to be a big test for us to see where we are defensively.”

Hooper leads the Cornhuskers with 19.8 points per game. McKeown said NU needs to shut down Hooper and guard Lindsey Moore.

“The issue with them is that when you shut them down, they have a lot of other people to step up, too,” McKeown said. “They’re a really dangerous, really well-coached, balanced team.”

The solution might sit on NU’s bench. With Diamant’s status unknown, the Cats may need to rely on freshman forward Alex Cohen and junior forward Kate Popovec, as NU did against Penn State.

Cohen turned in a laudable performance in her 14 minutes on the court Sunday, scoring 8 points and grabbing five rebounds.

“I scored some points, but there’s a lot of things I need to work on also,” Cohen said. “Coach and I have been talking a lot about post defense. That’s one thing that a lot of freshmen struggle with. So that’s what I’m focusing on this week.”

McKeown added other bench players such as junior guard Inesha Hale and sophomore guard Meghan McKeown stepped up recently, and the bench has “really helped” the Cats.

“They’ve just got to be consistent,” McKeown said. “You’re not going to make every shot but just come in with this energy and production. Production is probably the main thing.”

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