Women’s Basketball: Northwestern hopes to find consistency, slow down Iowa

Kevin Trahan

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Consistency has been hard to come by for Northwestern this season, and the Wildcats’ last two contests epitomized the entire year, as they played an outstanding game in a 63-51 upset win at then-No. 16 Nebraska before a letdown in a 69-57 loss at Illinois.

Now a season full of injuries and adversity is coming to an end, as only two games remain, starting Thursday night at home against Iowa (17-10, 9-5 Big Ten). For the Cats (14-13, 4-10 Big Ten), Thursday’s game against the Hawkeyes allows them a chance to get back on the right foot.

“We played so well against Nebraska, but the things we did there we didn’t do against Illinois,” coach Joe McKeown said. “We had (too many) turnovers in the first half, and that really hurt us. We tried, we fought hard, but we just got down too much.”

Junior forward Kendall Hackney was disappointed in her team’s play on both ends of the floor against the Fighting Illini.

“We just had a rough start,” she said. “We weren’t really rolling offensively, and we had some defensive mishaps. We need to make sure we don’t get into such a large deficit. If we don’t make shots, we just have to keep playing defense.”

NU will look to avoid another slow start after a bad first-half stretch put the Cats into a big hole in their last game against Iowa. The Hawkeyes jumped out to a 43-22 halftime lead en route to an 86-55 win, NU’s worst loss of the season.

The Hawkeyes shot more than 44 percent from three in that game, while the Cats shot just more than 33 percent from the floor.

“They’re a great shooting team and they just got really hot on us,” McKeown said. “We were never able to bounce back. We have to do a much better job in transition. We have to take away their runs. They’re capable of scoring in bunches. That’s the biggest thing we weren’t able to do at Iowa, is stopping runs.”

McKeown said defense beyond the arc will play a big role in NU’s ability to be successful against Iowa’s plethora of shooters.

“Everybody who is out there (for Iowa) can score,” he said. “That’s where we have to defend better than we did against Illinois.”

In addition to 3-point defense, transition defense was a big problem for NU against the Hawkeyes.

“They hit shots in transition and we just did not pick up shooters in transition,” Hackney said. “We just have to stay really focused in that. Even if it’s not our man, we have to make sure we pick them up.”

Iowa comes to Welsh-Ryan Arena on a roll, having won its last six games in a late push before postseason play. With just two games to go, NU is looking to pick up some of that momentum itself.

“This weekend is really important for us,” McKeown said. “We’ve had a tough stretch where we had three straight Thursday nights on the road and (played) at Illinois. It comes back to this weekend and I think it’s important that you really appreciate being at home. For our players, in the last week of the season to play two games at home, I think it’s really important.”

Hackney said NU is looking forward to using its final two home games to finish the season strong.

“We have two home games left in Big Ten season, which is a great way to finish the season for the Big Ten,” she said. “We have that advantage and we can use that (to reach our) full potential. If we just come out extremely focused, knowing what we’re going to do, I think we’ll be just fine.”