Women’s Basketball: 6th-seed Nebraska routs 11th-seed Northwestern, 88-56, in Big Ten Tournament

by Kevin Trahan

The last time Northwestern played Nebraska, the Wildcats came away from Lincoln with arguably their best victory of the season, knocking off the then-No. 16 Cornhuskers 63-51.

This time, in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, the sixth-seed Cornhuskers ended the 11th-seed Cats’ season in an 88-56 rout. It was a far cry from the NU team that gained some much-needed momentum from the win in Lincoln.

“The last time we played Nebraska, we played as a team and put all 40 minutes together,” junior forward Dannielle Diamant said. “This time, in the first half, we didn’t play well and we were down already. We did a decent job fighting back, but there’s not much you can do when you’re down by 30 at halftime.”

Diamant led NU with 14 points, and freshman point guard Karly Roser and junior forward Kendall Hackney both added 11. However, the Cats didn’t click on both ends of the court like they did in the matchup earlier this season.

“The first time we played them we controlled the pace of the game,” coach Joe McKeown said. “Today they played physical full court (press), got in (our face) and made shots.”

The drastic differences between the first and second NU-Nebraska matchups paralleled the Cats’ struggles with inconsistency this season. Despite a strong start, NU struggled down the stretch, failing to play a “full 40 minutes” in most games.

“There were so many ups and downs,” Roser said. “We sort of tailed off at the end of the season.”

NU was hampered by injuries for much of the season, most notably when senior forward Brittany Orban went down early in the year with a torn ACL. The Cats were forced to play a number of different lineups throughout the year, which hurt chemistry on the court at times.

NU also struggled with inexperience, as two freshmen – Roser and guard Morgan Jones – started from the beginning of the season and other young players were forced to step up due to injuries. That inexperience caused some of the Cats’ dry spells.

“When you have two freshmen starting and having them be huge part of the team, it’s hard when you haven’t played with them before the season,” Diamant said. “Next year we will gel better and kind of know each other’s tendencies.”

That inexperience was evident at times when opponents were able to go on runs. Thursday’s loss displayed those problems.

However, NU is looking ahead to next season, as four starters will return, as opposed to this year, when only two starters returned and just one played the majority of the season after Orban’s injury.

Roser said she hopes to build on a freshman campaign that, like the Cats’ season, was up and down at times.

“I’m looking forward to the summer,” Roser said. “Hopefully we’ll be better prepared next year. We know what to expect.”

McKeown again pointed to defensive lapses and an opponent’s run – this time a 29-1 run by the Huskers – as the reason for the loss. In that respect, it was a fitting end to a season full of defensive lapses.

“We were not as good defensively as we were the last two years,” he said. “We fought hard all year in the Big Ten; we bounced back. We just dug holes.”

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