Women’s Basketball: Wildcats still upbeat despite rough recent stretch

Christen+Inman+drives+around+the+defender.+The+junior+guard+has+played+every+minute+in+four+of+Northwestern%E2%80%99s+past+five+games.+

Daily file photo by Keshia Johnson

Christen Inman drives around the defender. The junior guard has played every minute in four of Northwestern’s past five games.

Cole Paxton, Reporter


Women’s Basketball


Although Northwestern languishes near the cellar of the Big Ten standings and has won just once in its last nine games, coach Joe McKeown said he isn’t discouraged.

The Wildcats (14-12, 3-11 Big Ten) enter Wednesday’s game against visiting Penn State (9-16, 4-10) with their only February win coming against last-place Illinois, but McKeown said he remains upbeat.

“I feel really positive,” McKeown said. “From a positive standpoint we made a (15-0) run on Maryland where a lot of teams would have been blown out. We crawled right back in, had a chance to win. So that’s encouraging.”

In Sunday’s 79-70 loss to the No. 5 Terrapins (23-3, 12-2), NU fell behind 25-5 after the first quarter but outscored Maryland in the final three periods. The Cats cut the deficit to 5 but couldn’t complete the comeback.

Sunday’s loss was only the most recent of a string of defeats decided late in the fourth quarter. Last Wednesday against Rutgers, the Cats had the ball in a tie game with 10 seconds to play, but junior forward Nia Coffey’s layup was blocked and the Scarlet Knights scored a game-winning layup with less than 2 seconds left.

NU has lost half its conference games by 9 points or fewer.

“It’s definitely frustrating, but it’s also something that you have to be accountable for,” junior guard Ashley Deary said of the many close losses. “We started slow against Maryland and that hurt us because we played three strong quarters but we didn’t put it all together. … Finding the will to finish games is going to be important for us going forward.”

The Cats’ conference opener at Penn State on New Year’s Eve, a 79-72 loss, was another game in which NU played well in spurts but not for the entire game. The Cats went on a 17-2 run in the third quarter to turn a 13-point deficit into a 2-point lead and led with less than four minutes to play.

The Nittany Lions, however, scored 16 points in the final 3 minutes to secure the win. After the game, McKeown said NU couldn’t defend when it needed to.

Junior guard Christen Inman said although the game took place nearly seven weeks ago, the Cats can learn from the loss.

“It was a long time ago, so we’ve improved and they improved,” Inman said. “Just learning from those mistakes, learning from the other film we watch on them and just putting it all together.”

After NU went 12-6 in conference play last year and advanced to the NCAA Tournament, expectations for this year’s team were high. Despite the recent string of losses and with repeat tournament hopes all but dashed, Deary said confidence remains high within the team.

“We’ve had some good wins, like Nebraska, Ohio State, (North Carolina), where we put together four quarters, so we know we’re capable of it,” Deary said of beating top teams. “It’s just having the mindset to actually do it.”

McKeown, who has never beaten Penn State, echoed Deary’s sentiment. He pointed out that a handful of players were doing individual work with coaches before practice and that the team had just finished a weightlifting session.

The coach said instead of dwelling on past losses that could have been wins, looking ahead is his focus.

“In February, the big key is moving forward,” McKeown said.

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Twitter: @ckpaxton

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