Women’s Basketball: Cornhuskers hang on late to tip Wildcats

Freshman forward Lauren Douglas drives to the hoop against Nebraska. Douglas' best game of the season was foiled by the Cornhuskers, who won 55-50.

Melody Song/The Daily Northwestern

Freshman forward Lauren Douglas drives to the hoop against Nebraska. Douglas' best game of the season was foiled by the Cornhuskers, who won 55-50.

Rebecca Friedman, Assistant Sports Editor

Despite a valiant last-minute effort, the Wildcats couldn’t put it away at home Thursday.

Northwestern fell just short to Nebraska, 55-50, after trying to stage its second comeback attempt this week.

Freshman forward Lauren Douglas carried the Cats in her best performance this season, finishing with a team-high 14 points. Douglas was a huge part of the Cats’ comeback effort and saw many similarities to their win over Iowa on Sunday. 

“Halftime we went in at the same situation,” Douglas said. “We knew that we could come in and put pressure on defense. It was very similar to Iowa.”

After a bumpy first half, in which the Cats shot only 21.9 percent from the floor and went 1-for-8 beyond the arc, NU headed into halftime down 25-17.  The Cats’ aim going into the second half was to improve their offensive efficiency.

“We had better shot selection,” freshman Maggie Lyon said. “ We took our time and reversed the ball more. Not many defenses can stay with that. ”

Lyon finished with 12 points on the night. Senior forward Dannielle Diamant was key for the Cats down low, finishing with a game-high 14 rebounds. Rebounding has been a focus for the Cats all season, trying to limit the their opponents’ second chances. The Cats kept the Cornhuskers to only 2 second-chance points per half, while putting up 7 of their own in the second half.

The Cats came out hard in the second half, both Douglas and Nebraska’s junior forward Jordan Hooper hitting threes within the first few minutes. Hooper, Nebraska’s leading point scoring, battled back for the Cornhuskers, finishing with 19 on the night, and was a defensive focus for the Cats going into the matchup.

“We didn’t find her right away,” Coach Joe McKeown said. “She’s really good in transition. She’s like Larry Bird putting up threes. We wanted to get to her as she catches the ball. I thought we did a pretty good job. I was proud of our team defensive effort tonight.”

The Cats held the aggressive Cornhuskers to only 29.7 percent shooting and forced them into shot-clock trouble multiple times.

NU decreased Nebraska’s lead to 8 points with five minutes and 14 seconds left in the second half. That’s when their aggressive comeback attempt kicked in. The team instituted their full-court press.

The Cats brought the score within 3, but bounces kept going Nebraska’s way,  and they fell just short.

“I’m disappointed that we didn’t rally like we did at Iowa on Sunday. We forced turnovers late in the game,” McKeown said. “We played great defense tonight against a team that is scoring a lot of points in our league. It was an outstanding effort.”

McKeown also highlighted the number of chances the Cats had and said they just needed to work on capitalizing.

NU also responded well to Nebraska’s aggressive outside defensive play as the game went on.

“We expected it coming into the game,” Lyon said. “We knew that was the game plan. I thought we handled it somewhat well, it took us time.”

Douglas was one of the biggest reasons for this, as she was able to give the outside shooters more opportunities by going to the net.

“I think I attacked the basket well,” she said. “A lot of teams know we have a lot of good shooters, and I was able to open up the floor more for the shooters.”

Coach McKeown agreed, praising Douglas for her stand-out performance.

“I thought she was terrific, thought she was aggressive and attacked the basket,” said McKeown. “She’s learning still on the floor. I thought tonight was one of her best games. I’m seeing great progress.”

McKeown was also quick to praise sophomore point guard Karly Roser, who hit the buzzer-beating layup to beat Iowa on Sunday.

“She’s playing like one of the top point guards in the Big Ten,” McKeown said. “She plays so hard. She was sick all week, and we’ve got to get her healthy. The play she made at Iowa will be in the Northwestern archives. I’m really proud of her.”

Roser finished with 8 points and six assists on the night.

If the Cats can maintain the high level of play they did in the final minutes of tonight’s game, they will be able to compete through the rest of their Big Ten schedule, starting with Ohio State on Sunday.

“If we can play defense like we do in the last eight minutes and take shots like we do for all 40 minutes of the game, we can do well,” Douglas said.