The Daily Northwestern

Women’s Basketball: Shorthanded Wildcats take down Michigan State

Ashley Deary drives through defenders. The senior guard brought veteran leadership to a shorthanded Northwestern lineup Tuesday.

Ashley Deary drives through defenders. The senior guard brought veteran leadership to a shorthanded Northwestern lineup Tuesday.

Daily file photo by Allie Goulding

Daily file photo by Allie Goulding

Ashley Deary drives through defenders. The senior guard brought veteran leadership to a shorthanded Northwestern lineup Tuesday.

Cole Paxton, Assistant Sports Editor

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Women’s Basketball

The opponent was different and the Welsh-Ryan Arena bleachers were far less full, but the result was much the same for Northwestern.

Three days after Saturday’s moving win over Indiana, the Wildcats (15-4, 4-2 Big Ten) returned to action Tuesday and downed Michigan State (13-6, 3-3) 76-65 thanks to strong play from several reserves forced into extended minutes.

Sophomore guard Amber Jamison, making just her second career start, scored a career-high 22 points to lead the Cats. Senior guard Ashley Deary added 20 for NU, which played without injured senior guard Christen Inman. Senior forward Nia Coffey, the Cats’ leading scorer entering Tuesday at 20.4 points per game, scored just 7 points on 1-of-14 shooting. The performance ended her program-record 66-game streak of double-digit scoring outings, but her teammates still found a way to edge the Spartans.

Jamison had her second consecutive standout performance. She has totaled 35 points over the two contests after scoring in double figures just once this season before last week. Coach Joe McKeown called the sophomore “unbelievably close” to sophomore Jordan Hankins, who died last week.

The coach said he was again impressed by his team’s response.

“I’m really proud of them. It takes a lot of courage to do what they’re doing right now,” McKeown said. “They’re a special group.”

Other secondary contributors also impressed. Senior center Allie Tuttle scored 6 of the Cats’ first 8 points, and junior guard Maya Jonas filled minutes vacated by both Inman and fellow junior guard Lydia Rohde, who missed her fifth-straight game. Jamison’s 34 minutes marked a steep increase from her previous season high of 18.

“Everybody who came in and had minutes played extremely well,” Deary said. “Knowing that (players are) going to be out of their normal positions, everyone stepped up in a way and really contributed.”

NU lost a 13-point second quarter lead and trailed for much of the third, but regained the lead on a Jamison 3-pointer with 3:23 to play in the period and never relinquished it. The Cats were helped by a more than 5-minute stretch late in the third quarter in which the Spartans scored just 4 points.

NU avoided drama in the final minutes by shooting 14-of-20 at the free throw line in the fourth quarter, though Michigan State closed to within 9 in the final minute.

Spartans guard Tori Jankoska, the Big Ten’s second leading scorer at 22.6 points per game before Tuesday, led all scorers with 25, but the Cats held her well below the 42 she scored in an upset win of Ohio State last week.

“(Jankoska) has a lot of hesitations and … she’s super protective of the ball,” Jamison said. “The main focus was to just keep her in front of me and just have my teammates help whenever was needed.”

The win is a significant boost to NU’s NCAA Tournament resume. Michigan State’s RPI of 45 entering Tuesday makes it the highest-ranked opponent that the Cats have taken down this season. Both teams are currently projected to be among the last into the tournament in ESPN’s latest bracketology, so the head-to-head win could be critical come March.

NU has now played two games since last week’s tragedy. But just a week removed from Hankins’ death, she remains on the Cats’ mind.

“It’s more getting (back) into that routine,” Jamison said. “Of course it’s always difficult just not having her here. We just play for her and do everything for her now.”

Twitter: @ckpaxton