Women’s Basketball: Kunaiyi-Akpanah shatters 1,000-rebound record despite Wildcats’ loss to Cornhuskers


Daily file photo by Owen Stidman

Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah operates on offense. The senior secured her 1,000th career rebound.

Manasa Pagadala, Reporter

Women’s Basketball

Northwestern had its first game in the final stretch of conference play on Thursday, with only two games left in the regular conference until the Big Ten Tournament starts on March 6. But it wasn’t a good start.

The Wildcats trailed by as many as 20 points in the third quarter until a late run that cut the deficit to 3 points. NU’s sloppiness ended up being its downfall, as several players got into foul trouble while also struggling to hit mid-range jump shots, and the Cats (15-12, 8-8 Big Ten) lost 71-64 to Nebraska (13-14, 8-8).

“They haven’t played a lot together; not as much as you would like this time of year,” coach Joe McKeown said.

The moment the first quarter kicked off, the aggression that beat out Nebraska in the first matchup was not present for NU the second time around. This, in large part, was due to the absence of sophomore guard Jordan Hamilton, whose injury in the team’s last game required her to sit this one out.

In the first Nebraska game of 2019, Hamilton shot 3-for-5 from the 3-point line to contribute 12 points along with an assist. The Cats missed her offensive prowess as they scored 29 percent from the 3-point line overall and ended with a weak 38 percent shooting percentage, compared to the Cornhuskers’ 58 percent.

“Before (Hamilton) got hurt, she had a 20-point game (at Minnesota),” McKeown said[CQ]. “She was a natural leader on the floor too.”

But the team was able to get back into the game, in large part due to senior center Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah’s aggression on the offensive end. In the game, she also secured her 1,000th career rebound.

Not only did she beat the record, but in one of the toughest losses in the Big Ten season thus far, she proved her ability to carry the team as captain, securing her 15th double-double of the season with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Despite all her efforts, however, there was too much lost ground for the team to recover.

Players like freshman guard Sydney Wood struggled to attack the net aggressively, ending the game with a 25 percent shooting record and 3 points overall. Sophomore guard Lindsey Pulliam excelled from the free-throw line but made only 5 of 21 field goals, ending the game with a negative efficiency rating in the box score and contributing to the eventual 71-64 loss.

Now at 8-8 in conference, NU heads into crunch time, with only two games left to play in the regular conference until the Big Ten Tournament starts in Indianapolis in two weeks. Moving forward, the Wildcats have plans to make big improvements and are optimistic about their current position.

“Right now, we’re in a good position at 15-12,” McKeown said. “We can defend a lot of low post players. We struggled a little bit tonight shooting the basketball, but we’re dangerous.”

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