Women’s Basketball: On 13th try, Joe McKeown finally beats Penn State


Daily file photo by Owen Stidman

Jordan Hamilton runs the offense. The sophomore guard had 12 points in NU’s win over Penn State on Thursday.

Ryan Wangman, Audio Editor

Women’s Basketball

Apparently, 13 is coach Joe McKeown’s lucky number.

Previously in McKeown’s 11-year Northwestern coaching career, Penn State has been the thorn in his side, his teams losing all 12 matchups against the Nittany Lions during his tenure. That is, until Thursday night.

“We’ve had some tough losses, some games against, you know some of their best teams that came down to the buzzer,” McKeown said. “I really hadn’t thought about it that much. But, you know, again, I’ve been coaching a while … a great program, great history and we had some great games back then, too.”

Off the back of a stifling team defensive performance and 22 points from sophomore guard Lindsey Pulliam, the Wildcats (15-10, 8-6 Big Ten) dominated the Nittany Lions (10-14, 3-10) on their way to a commanding 78-63 home win for the first time in the last 13 tries against them. The resounding victory was a tour de force from the Cats, who led the entire game and held the Penn State offense to just 22 points on 24 percent shooting in the first half.

Pulliam struggled from the field early on, hitting only three of her first eight shots, but continued to attack the basket fearlessly, burning Penn State with an onslaught of quick-fire jump shots and layups.

“I mean, I think every shot is going in,” Pulliam said. “So I have the mentality that like I’m going to continue to shoot. My coach tells me to keep shooting, so, (I’m) just staying aggressive throughout the whole game.”

NU also saw two other starters reach double figures in scoring: junior forward Abi Scheid — who went 4-for-5 from beyond the arc — and sophomore guard Jordan Hamilton, who added 12 points of her own. The Cats’ 78 points were their most in a game since a 79-78 overtime loss against Michigan on Jan. 8.

The matchup featured two of the league’s top four scorers, Pulliam and Penn State’s Teniya Page. Page, who averages 19.5 points per game, never found her rhythm offensively, shooting 36 percent from the floor. Her struggles doomed her team, which operates without a go-to secondary scoring option.

Pulliam explained that the defensive game plan centered around stopping Page from getting into the paint and denying her opportunity to hit pull-up jumpers.

“She knows how to score the ball,” Pulliam said. “She knows where she where she can get on the floor. But I mean, we really focus on defense, trying to shut down their plays and where they’re really successful.”

With the win, the Cats are tied with Michigan for the fourth spot in the conference, and with just four games to go in the regular season, a top-notch finish is within reach for the team. Finishing in the top four would be a distinct advantage for NU, as they would get a double bye in the conference tournament and start play in the quarterfinals, which would bode well for their NCAA tournament chances.

“A couple years ago, I think we finished tied for third or fourth, had a double bye, got to the semifinals back to back years so I think it really gives you an added rest,” McKeown said. “But you can’t worry about those things, right, because … everything’s jumbled right now in the league so I think the next three games will probably separate some teams and … we want to be in the mix.”

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