Women’s Basketball: Wildcats rally back to top Rebels

Josh Walfish, Reporter

When Northwestern needed a big play in the final 2 minutes Sunday, it looked to Lauren Douglas.

The sophomore forward scored 5 of her 11 points in those last minutes to lift the Wildcats (3-0) to a 57-53 win over the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (1-2). 

“It was a hard-fought game,” coach Joe McKeown said. “We made big plays at the right time. I’m just proud of our team in the last five minutes. … We just had hustle plays we had to make. … We did the little things that make good teams.”

Douglas hit the game-tying 3-pointer from the corner with 1 minute and 22 seconds left to knot the game at 53. She collected a defensive rebound on the subsequent UNLV possession which led to a sophomore Maggie Lyon layup that gave NU the lead. Yet, her most important contribution may have been the charge she drew on Mia Bell with less than 5 seconds to play. That crucial turnover gave NU the ball with a lead and it was only fitting Douglas hit the free throws to ice the game for the Cats.

“I stayed focused in the end,” Douglas said. “The charge was something we work on all the time in practice. We’ve done drills to slide in help and I don’t think she was expecting it.”

Both teams struggled on offense in the first half. The squads combined for 16 offensive rebounds before the break, but scored only two second-chance points apiece. NU shot a measly 24 percent from the field and UNLV was only slightly better at 31 percent. The sloppiness did not allow either team to really pull away and the largest lead was only 5 points either way.

However, NU was able to turn its shooting around in the second half and erase a 4-point halftime deficit. The Cats shot nearly 56 percent in the second stanza led by three players shooting 60 percent or better. The biggest difference between the two periods was NU’s ability to slow the pace and run its offensive sets. 

“A lot of the time, especially in the first half when things were getting out of hand, we were playing into their style of play which is really crazy, hectic and not really disciplined,” Lyon said. “Once we started to execute things, we did really well offensively.”

The real thorn in the Cats’ side was rebounding, particularly on the defensive end. UNLV out-rebounded NU 47-41 and had 20 offensive rebounds, which led to 14 second-chance points. Even though freshman Nia Coffey had a game-high 10 boards, constant foul trouble to NU’s frontline forced McKeown to use a smaller lineup at times. During a stretch in the middle of the second half, Lyon was playing power forward, with both Coffey and Douglas on the bench with four fouls.

“We got killed on the boards and we need to focus on boxing out,” Lyon said. “I was a culprit of that. They just kind of threw up stuff and hoped to get the offensive rebound and we didn’t always execute boxing them out. That’s something we need to focus on more.”

McKeown said he saw a lot of positives from the game even if NU had not been able to come back and win. However, it never hurts for a young team to experience tight games before conference play begins in January.

“We knew this was going to be a tough game,” McKeown said. “Any time you can make mistakes and learn from them and still be in a position to win the game, that really helps.”

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