Women’s Basketball: Wildcats drive by Badgers in thriller


Daily file photo by Meghan White

Freshman forward Maggie Lyon surveys the floor. Lyon’s three-pointer with less than two minutes left gave NU the lead against Wisconsin en route to a 54-52 win.

Ariel Yong, Reporter

It was another nail-biter at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Saturday afternoon. But this time, Northwestern emerged victorious.

NU (13-14, 5-9 Big Ten) battled back from a 10-point deficit in the first half to outlast Wisconsin (11-16, 3-11), taking a 54-52 win in a tough battle that went down to the wire.

“(It was) a little crazy finish there,” coach Joe McKeown said. “It was kind of like chaotic. It was a really good win. You get this late in February, (and) you just want to get out of here with a W.”

After trailing for the majority of the game, the Cats clung to a 1-point lead with one minute left. Wisconsin’s center Cassie Rochel fouled out with 36 seconds left and senior forward Dannielle Diamant hit 1 of 2 free throws to give NU the lead, 54-52.

With five seconds left, freshman forward Maggie Lyon stole the ball but missed the layup on the other end. Fans held their breath as Wisconsin’s Jacki Gulczynski caught the outlet pass and sprinted toward NU’s basket – and missed a layup right at the buzzer.

“When I got the steal, I went in hard to get a layup,” Lyon said. “In retrospect, I probably should have pulled it out cause we didn’t need the points but I thought I had a clear shot to put us ahead by 4 and just seal the deal but unfortunately it didn’t go in. I think it’s a learning moment but it was exciting to get the steal and I know for next time I’ll just pull it out and not take the layup.”

Lyon finished with 13 points and 3 steals. She leads the Big Ten in scoring amongst freshmen, averaging 12.7 points per game.

“Maggie Lyon is, to me, one of the premiere freshmen in the country,” McKeown said. “She just kept making plays at the end of the game. Those threes that she made just were daggers and we really needed that so I was really proud of her.”

The first half was a roller coaster for the Cats. Both teams went scoreless for the first three minutes until the Badgers put themselves on the board with a jumper by Tiera Stephen. The lead changed numerous times between both teams until about midway through the first half when cold shooting plagued the Cats. NU trailed Wisconsin by only 1 point with just over 10 minutes left but the Badgers went off on a 9-0 run, making use of backdoor cuts.

The Cats went scoreless for six minutes.

However, they rallied late in the first half. With just over two minutes left, the Cats drew within 7 on a 3-pointer by senior forward Kendall Hackney NU sat in a zone defense and continued to rattle the Badger offense. Wisconsin shot only 2-7 from beyond the arc.

NU scored 6 points in the last minute and 30 seconds. Sophomore guard Karly Roser hit a jumper at the halftime buzzer to bring NU within 4 and shift the momentum in the Cats’ favor.

“If anyone’s got the ball with seven seconds left on the clock, I’m going to put it in Karly’s hands,” Hackney said. “I know that she can score. She’s so quick and she’s smart … I was just waiting in the corner. I was just like sitting there. I knew she was going to take it and it was going … We needed that ’cause that just continued the momentum over the second half for us. ”

The Cats opened the second half with a full court press and picked up right where they left off in the first half. NU forced 6 Wisconsin turnovers in the first six minutes. The Cats finally found their hot hands and shot an impressive 66.7 percent from beyond the arc and 37.9 percent from the field.

Freshman forward Lauren Douglas hit a layup to tie the game at 43 with nine minutes left. Both teams then went scoreless for four and a half minutes.

Sophomore forward Alex Cohen missed a layup but Diamant came charging in to grab the rebound and make the shot, giving the NU the lead for the first time in the second half with just over five minutes left to play.

The Badgers defended against the Cats’ late game rally by hitting their free throws, shooting 5-5 from the foul line in the last five minutes of the game. However, Lyon was hot from the 3-point line, ensuring the Cats shut the door on the Badgers.

The win improved their record to five conference wins, surpassing their win record from last season.