Women’s Basketball: Struggling Wildcats face off against Big Ten’s best


Daily file photo by Courtney Morrison

Christen Inman attempts to contest the shot. The junior guard said she is unhappy with NU’s recent performance, and hopes the Cats can end their slide during the upcoming stretch against No. 5 Ohio State and No. 8 Maryland.

Cole Paxton, Reporter

Women’s Basketball

Coming off a pair of losses last weekend that saw them fall out of the AP Top 25 for the first time this season, the Wildcats are not a happy bunch. They aren’t, however, licking their wounds.

“We’re pissed,” junior guard Christen Inman said. “We’re looking to bounce back and we’re really just fired up.”

To bounce back, Northwestern (12-4, 1-3 Big Ten) will need to topple a pair of heavyweights. The Cats host No. 5 Ohio State on Thursday before traveling to No. 8 Maryland on Sunday.

To snag a win or two, NU must reverse its recent fortunes. After starting the season 10-0, the Cats are just 2-4 in their last six contests. In its most recent outing, Sunday at then-No. 23 Michigan State, NU trailed by as many as 30 en route to a 74-51 loss.  

Despite the seemingly tall task over the next few days, coach Joe McKeown said he doesn’t feel any additional pressure.

“There’s always a sense of urgency when you play in a league like this, where every game … the other team is good,” McKeown said. “It’s just an opportunity to learn and get better from some of the things we didn’t do well last week. I think we’ll be ready to play; I think we’re excited to play.”

The Cats struggled in several facets of the game against Michigan State, with 3-point shooting and turnovers among the biggest issues. NU shot an abysmal 3-of-26 from 3-point range, with two of the makes coming late in the fourth quarter, and committed 18 turnovers.

In the Cats’ 85-71 home defeat to Purdue last Thursday, they shot only 4-of-16 on 3s and gave the ball away 15 times. Limiting turnovers will be key against the Buckeyes, who average more than 20 points off turnovers per game.

Despite NU’s shooting woes, senior guard Maggie Lyon said the Cats have no plans to stop shooting the 3-ball.

“You go through ebbs and flows of making shots and missing shots,” Lyon said. “Having a few games where you shoot poorly, not as great as you know you can, doesn’t affect my confidence and doesn’t affect our team’s confidence.”

Against Ohio State, NU will face a tremendous defensive challenge. The Buckeyes average 86.5 points per game, good for second in the Big Ten and fourth nationally. Guard Kelsey Mitchell ranks second nationally with 25.0 points per game.

Additionally, Ohio State has scored at least 90 points in eight games, including its last two against conference opponents. The Cats, meanwhile, have hit that mark only once this season and have surpassed the Buckeyes’ season average only twice.

“The pace they play at is like nothing else in our league,” McKeown said. “Our biggest focus is going to be getting back on defense and shutting them down.”

Traveling to Maryland will hardly be a cakewalk either. The Terrapins’ only losses this season came against Ohio State and undefeated No. 1 Connecticut, and Maryland has been ranked in the top 10 every week this season.

Losing both games would drop NU to 1-5 in Big Ten play and extend its losing streak to four, raising doubts about the Cats’ ability to make the NCAA tournament.

Despite the challenges, Lyon said that team morale remains strong.

“We’re excited,” she said. “Playing two of the best teams in the country this week is an awesome opportunity. We’re really excited about it; we know what we’re capable of. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, it just matters about how we believe in each other.”

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