Women’s Basketball: Wildcats looking to improve late-game execution

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Daily file photo by Meghan White

Dannielle Diamant (31) goes for the ball in a recent game. Diamant and the Cats fell to Indiana 68-64 on Sunday.

Rebecca Friedman, Reporter

After two straight losses to Big Ten opponents in grind-it-out fashion, Northwestern aims to improve its play late in the game.

After the Cats’ 68-64 loss to Indiana, Coach Joe McKeown highlighted the importance of finishing games. Coming back home to face off against Illinois and Michigan, NU’s focus is on its finishing abilities in order to protect its home court and obtain its first Big Ten victory.

The Cats’ ability to come back when losing was evident in their offensive push early in the second half against the Hoosiers, when they turned a 35-27 halftime deficit to a 44-43 lead with 12 minutes left in the game. However, the Cats would not hold the lead again after that point. A surge by Indiana forced the Cats to continue to play from behind, but NU was able to push it to within 2 points with one minute and 38 seconds left in the game. The Hoosiers, led by forward Aulani Sinclair’s impressive 13 second-half points, padded their lead with 6 more points, 4 too many for the Cats to come back from.

McKeown said after the game that one play or one player could have made the difference between a win and a loss.

The Penn State game was eerily similar in that it was a 4-point loss and NU showed signs of life making a comeback seem possible. The Cats had a 6-point lead at the half against the No. 9 seeded Nittany Lions. However, Penn State came from behind and took the lead with 11 minutes and 43 seconds left in the game. Once again NU battled back to regain the lead with less than six minutes left. The teams remained neck and neck in the last five minutes, but the Nittany Lions captured a lead at the one minute, 26-second mark that they would never relinquish.

As in the game against Indiana, the Cats lost a tough battle that was decided within the last few minutes of the game.

One reason for the Cats’ inability to keep up within the last few minutes could be the depth of the team’s roster. The Cats usually play about seven deep and use their starters frequently.

In the game against Indiana, NU’s starters played the majority of the game with only three players coming off the bench and senior Kate Popovec leading the non-starters with nine minutes. The Cats’ starting five accounted for 186 total minutes. This was opposed to Indiana’s 141 minutes played by their starting five. The Hoosiers’ leading player off the bench played 34 total minutes finishing with 15 rebounds and 8 points.

The loss against Penn State was different because seniors Dannielle Diamant and Kendall Hackney both fouled out with more than five minutes left in the game, forcing players to come off the bench who might not have otherwise.

The lack of a deep bench puts a lot of pressure on the Cats’ starters and could cause fatigue late in the game when their opponents are increasing their level of play.

Hackney, however, doesn’t believe this is a reason for the Cats’ 0-2 start to the conference season. She praised the bench’s ability to come in when needed in the Penn State game when she and Diamant fouled out.

Hackney also discredited the idea that the starters feel pressure by the Cats’ short bench.

“I don’t tend to think about it that way, I do the best that I can while I’m out there,” she said. “I try not to get in foul trouble so that I can stay on the floor as much as I can.”

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