Women’s Basketball: Wildcats close out regular season with loss to Nebraska


Daily file photo by Courtney Morrison

Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah attempts to box out a defender. The freshman forward ended her first season with 14 starts.

Will Ragatz, Reporter

Women’s Basketball

At long last, Northwestern’s nightmare Big Ten season is over. The final game went much like the majority of the others, with the Wildcats unable to find a way to win Sunday.

Nebraska (18-11, 9-9 Big Ten) shot 50 percent on its way to a 76-67 victory over NU (15-15, 4-14). Four Cornhuskers scored in double figures, led by guard Maddie Simon with 16 points. Guard Natalie Romeo put up 12 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists for Nebraska.

Junior guard Christen Inman led NU with 27 points and junior forward Nia Coffey added 19, but it wasn’t enough as the Cats fell for sixth time in their past seven games.

“Just a hard fought game, a hard fought regular season for us,” said coach Joe McKeown. “Nebraska just made a couple plays … they hit a couple threes and really hurt us inside, which to me was the difference in the game.”

Neither team could buy a shot in the first quarter — NU made just 3-of-17 attempts, but Nebraska wasn’t much better. The Huskers made 4 shots on 18 tries and led just 10-8 after 10 minutes.

After the extremely slow first period, the teams picked up a bit of offensive rhythm in the second. Nebraska made nine straight field goals and went on a 10-0 run to gain some separation from the Cats before the break.

Inman was a major factor in keeping NU in the game. In the first quarter, she intercepted a Nebraska pass and went all the way to the basket for an easy layup. With time running out in the half, she knocked down the Cats’ first 3-pointer to halt the Huskers’ run and keep NU within striking distance at the half, 31-23.

“We played really hard, but we had some lapses (and) we didn’t do enough to win this game,” Inman said. “That kind of sums it up.”

Nebraska’s lead grew to as many as 15 in the third quarter, as it continued its hot shooting. NU kept battling, but trailed by 12 heading into the final quarter.

The Cats would get within 9 points early in the fourth on a 3-pointer by senior guard Maggie Lyon, who was playing in her last regular season game, but would close the gap to no less than 7 in the loss.

“Maggie Lyon … is just playing on sheer guts right now,” McKeown said. “Really proud of her this year.”

Inman scored 18 of her 27 points in the second half, but couldn’t quite pull NU back into the game.

The Cats were unable to deal with Nebraska’s size advantage for much of the game. The Huskers finished with a massive 54-32 advantage in rebounding, and did much of their scoring on post-ups in the paint. 6-foot-4-inch forward Jessica Shepard scored 9 of her 13 points in the second half as the Huskers closed out the game.

“(We) just couldn’t keep them off the glass like we needed to to win the game here,” McKeown said.

The result was very different from the last time the two teams faced. Back in early January, NU routed Nebraska 85-62 in Evanston.

NU opens Big Ten Tournament play in Indianapolis against Wisconsin on Wednesday.

“The only thing that really matters now, and we talked about this as soon as the game was over, is everybody’s 0-0 (again),” McKeown said.

This story was updated with postgame quotes.

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Twitter: @WillRagatz