Women’s Basketball: Wildcats looking to sweep Ohio State, end three-game skid


Daily file photo by Courtney Morrison

Ashley Deary lifts a jump-shot. Despite the Wildcats’ struggles, the junior guard leads the nation in steals per game.

Will Ragatz, Reporter

Women’s Basketball

Last time Northwestern faced Ohio State, it snapped a two-game losing streak with a signature victory that seemed likely to turn the Wildcats’ season around.

Since then, however, things have only gotten worse. NU (13-7, 2-6 Big Ten) has lost all three of its games following that upset, and heads into Thursday’s rematch with the No. 7 Buckeyes (15-4, 7-1) as its hopes for a second consecutive NCAA tournament berth slip away.

Two weeks ago, the Cats knocked off Ohio State in stunning fashion, 86-82, at Welsh-Ryan Arena. In that game, NU dominated the first half both offensively and defensively.

“That game showed how good we can be,” said coach Joe McKeown.

The Cats were unable to turn that performance into a trend. They followed the upset victory with a flat performance in a loss at No. 8 Maryland, which was by no means unexpected, but then also dropped contests against unranked Big Ten opponents Minnesota and Indiana.

In those losses, NU struggled mightily on defense. It surrendered at least 80 points to all three teams, including more than 90 each to the Golden Gophers and Hoosiers.

“It’s been a combination of things, sometimes turnovers, sometimes fouls, we haven’t defended the three-point line great, we gotta do a better job there,” McKeown said about his team’s struggle with stopping opponents.

NU’s potent offense has looked consistent during the losing streak though. Against Minnesota, the Cats knocked down 50 percent of their shots, including 11 3-pointers. And against Indiana on Sunday, junior guard Ashley Deary and junior forward Nia Coffey combined for 57 points.

Yet despite putting up high point totals, NU has been unable to slow down teams on the other end.

“Our biggest challenge right now is defensively, how we can get better,” McKeown said. “We’ve shown so far in the league that we can score, but we just have to get better on defense, and I think everyone’s committed to that.”

Facing Ohio State will continue to challenge the Cats’ leaky defense. The Buckeyes are the third-highest scoring team in the country, averaging almost 86 points per contest. NU got a taste of that in the last matchup when Ohio State put up 52 points in the second half to nearly complete a massive comeback.

Ohio State guard Kelsey Mitchell will again be the player to watch Thursday. The nation’s third leading scorer dropped 28 points in the first meeting.

McKeown said the rematch will be different than the previous contest because the two teams will be more familiar with each other.

“You know their tendencies just like they know yours,” McKeown said. “(We need to focus on) execution now, second time around. The things that we did well against them (last time), we want to continue to do on Thursday.”

Since falling to NU, Ohio State has gotten back on track by winning three straight games. The Buckeyes’ only loss in their last 12 games came at Welsh-Ryan.

Despite the opposite directions the two teams have headed in since the first time they met, junior guard Christen Inman is confident that NU can pull off another upset.
“We’re making sure we’re going into Ohio State not dwelling on these past games,” Inman said. “We’ve beaten Ohio State before. We know we can do it (again).”

Email: [email protected]stern.edu

Twitter: @WillRagatz