Women’s Basketball: Wildcats expecting tough challenge from Purdue as they look to gain momentum in Big Ten


Sam Schumacher/The Daily Northwestern

Maggie Lyon prepares to pass to the paint. Through 14 games, the senior guard is averaging a career-high 15.4 points per game.

Will Ragatz, Reporter

Women’s Basketball

Two very different Northwestern teams have shown up thus far during conference play, and on Thursday the Wildcats will begin to find out who they really are.  

The No. 16 Wildcats (12-2, 1-1 Big Ten) looked drastically different in a shocking loss at Penn State than it did in a blowout win against Nebraska. Now, the Cats enter a four game stretch against some of the best teams in the conference that starts Thursday against Purdue (11-2, 2-0).

The Boilermakers travel to Evanston on a hot streak, having won their first two Big Ten games and six straight overall.

“They’ve gotten great guard play so far, and they’re pretty well-balanced. They can play in transition, play inside-out,” coach Joe McKeown said of Purdue. “It should be a great game, always is when we play them.”

Purdue is an experienced team, led by senior guard April Wilson (14.9 ppg, 6.0 apg) and junior guard Ashley Morrissette (11.9 ppg), each of whom is shooting better than 40 percent from 3.

McKeown said he is especially worried about containing Wilson. The do-it-all point guard nearly recorded a triple-double in Purdue’s last game, putting up 24 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists in a win against Illinois.

“Right now she’s scoring from everywhere, she’s getting to the rim, making 3s, playing inside-out, she’s just doing everything for them,” McKeown said. “We have to be aware of where she is all the time.”

Last February, NU traveled to West Lafayette and beat the Boilermakers in overtime. Senior guard Maggie Lyon said she expects Purdue, which returns six of the nine players who appeared in that game, to be extremely motivated to get revenge in Evanston.

Purdue, however, isn’t exactly the same team. Last year, it won only 11 games, while the Boilermakers have matched that total in just 13 games this season.       

“Purdue has a much better team this year,” Lyon said. “They’re tough, and they always rebound really well.”

The Cats, meanwhile, have struggled on the glass this season with a rebounding margin of -2.4. In the loss to Penn State, NU was outrebounded by 19 and gave up 79 points.

Following its loss to Penn State, NU rebounded in more ways than one against Nebraska three days later. The Cats came out aggressively from the start, opening the game with a 22-4 run and never looking back in cruising to a 23-point victory. More importantly, NU posted a season-high 57 rebounds, beating Nebraska by 11 in that department.

 Now, the competition stiffens. After Purdue, NU plays three consecutive games against nationally-ranked conference opponents. However, junior guard Christen Inman said the team isn’t looking into the future.

“It’s a lot easier for us to compartmentalize each two-game week, so we can focus on each game and take it one at a time,” she said.

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Twitter: @WillRagatz