Women’s Basketball: Northwestern gets little production from center spot in loss to Iowa


Keshia Johnson/The Daily Northwestern

Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah battles for a rebound. The freshman forward had a bad game in a loss to Iowa, scoring 2 points while dealing with foul trouble all afternoon.

Cole Paxton, Reporter

Women’s Basketball

After Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah broke out with 14 points and 14 rebounds in a win over then-No. 5 Ohio State two weeks ago, it looked as though Northwestern finally found a reliable player at the center position. On Sunday, however, the Wildcats’ production at the ‘5’ spot on the floor mirrored the early season rather than the past few weeks.

Freshman Kunaiyi-Akpanah committed three fouls in the first quarter and played just 12 minutes, and her replacements contributed little as Iowa (15-7, 5-5 Big Ten) defeated Northwestern (13-9, 2-8) 79-64 at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

“Today their post-play really was the difference in the game,” coach Joe McKeown said.

Iowa starting forwards Megan Gustafson and Chase Coley combined for 34 points and 20 rebounds.

Kunaiyi-Akpanah played well when she was in the game. She grabbed seven rebounds — five on the offensive end — and used her height to snatch a rebound and score the putback early in the third quarter. However, she spent much of the game on the NU bench.

The freshman committed a pair of fouls that gave Iowa potential and-1s, then picked up her third late in the period. She did not return in the half and played just 5 minutes before the break.

The plight was even more acute in the second half. After scoring the early putback, she picked up her fourth foul just 1:13 into the third quarter and headed to the bench. She did not return until midway through the fourth quarter.

“It’s difficult to make any in-game adjustments,” junior forward Nia Coffey said of having to play much of the game without Kunaiyi-Akpanah.

Junior forward Allie Tuttle and sophomore guard Lydia Rohde played extended minutes in Kunaiyi-Akpanah’s absence. The duo combined for just 4 points and three rebounds in 27 total minutes.

Tuttle and Rohde also both struggled beyond the stats. Rohde fouled the 6-foot-3-inch Coley for an and-1 opportunity on a baseline out-of-bounds play. Tuttle, meanwhile, allowed an offensive rebound to Gustafson, despite having better position, and fouled the Hawkeye forward on her putback attempt.

However, McKeown offered praise for Tuttle and her recent play. Her 16 minutes on Sunday were a season high.

“She has some length and size, has the ability to play offensively and defensively on the low block,” McKeown said of the junior. “I thought she did some good things, not just tonight but in the last couple games for us.”

Overall, the mishmash of Tuttle, Rohde and senior forward Christen Johnson, who played just one minute Sunday, very much resembled the ‘5’ for the Cats in the 14 games Johnson started. In only one game this season did any of those three players score in double figures, and none had more than five rebounds in a single contest.

NU’s top four scorers — Coffey, junior guard Ashley Deary, junior guard Christen Inman and senior guard Maggie Lyon — combined to score 56 of the Cats’ 64 points Sunday with little help from Kunaiyi-Akpanah.

Lack of depth at center has been a problem for the Cats all season, and their 64 total points was the lowest output in the past four games.

Email: colepaxton2019@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @ckpaxton