Rapid Recap: Northwestern 74, James Madison 69

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Rapid Recap: Northwestern 74, James Madison 69

Jordan Hamilton dribbles the ball. The sophomore guard scored 12 points on Wednesday.

Jordan Hamilton dribbles the ball. The sophomore guard scored 12 points on Wednesday.

Daily file photo by Owen Stidman

Jordan Hamilton dribbles the ball. The sophomore guard scored 12 points on Wednesday.

Daily file photo by Owen Stidman

Daily file photo by Owen Stidman

Jordan Hamilton dribbles the ball. The sophomore guard scored 12 points on Wednesday.

Andrew Golden, Web Editor

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Women’s Basketball


In the past three postseason games for Northwestern, getting out to a fast start has been a struggle. After being down at the end of the first quarter of each of those contests, the Wildcats looked like a completely different first-quarter team on Wednesday.

NU (21-14, 9-9 Big Ten) earned a place in the WNIT championship game with a 74-69 win over James Madison (29-6, 17-1 CAA) in Harrisonburg, V.A. to continue the program’s longest-ever postseason run under coach Joe McKeown.

The Cats hopped out to a early 14-point lead with just over two minutes remaining in the first. After that, James Madison went on a 12-1 run that spanned into the quarter, cutting the Cats’ deficit to just three. However, as they did during various stretches throughout the game, NU responded with a run to give themselves a 7-point lead by halftime.

Early in the second half, NU extended their lead back to 11 before the Dukes cut the lead back to six. The Cats maintained their lead for the rest of the second half, but allowed James Madison to cut the lead to three with just 4.9 seconds remaining. With a chance to ice the game, junior forward Abi Scheid hit two clutch three throws to put the game away.

It was truly a team effort for NU, as all five players scored in double figures and shot 44 percent from the field for the game. Defensively, the Cats forced the Dukes to commit 18 turnovers and shoot 31 percent by the end of the game.

Takeaways

1. The Cats had an amazing first quarter. Despite not having great first quarters in the tournament, the team came out firing on all cylinders to begin the game. NU jumped out to a 7-0 lead early on and finished the first quarter shooting 7-for-13 from the field. Kunaiyi-Akpanah scored six of her seven first-half points in the first quarter on free throws and shots in the paint, but Veronica Burton and Scheid thrived on 3-pointers, combined for three in the first 10 minutes. While the Cats shot over 50 percent in the first half, James Madison shot 4-for-15 from the field and struggled to get going behind NU’s lockdown defense. It was truly the dominant first quarter performance that the Cats had been lacking in the previous few outings.

2. NU had a balanced attack on offense. Kunaiyi-Akpanah and sophomore guard Lindsey Pulliam were the only players who averaged double figures for this season. With a trip to the WNIT championship game on the line, though, everyone contributed. Along with Kunaiyi-Akpanah and Pulliam, Burton, Jordan Hamilton and Scheid scored in double figures. The starters finished the game scoring 61 of the Cats’ 69 points and completely dominated the Dukes’ starters.

3. Kunaiyi-Akpanah has a chance to leave on top. The senior center has been one of NU’s most prolific players in its team history. She now has the chance to cement her legacy with a postseason championship this weekend. Offensively, she has been up and down during the WNIT, but has been undoubtedly the heart of the defense. She’s stepped up her game averaging 14 rebounds, 2.75 steals and 1.5 blocks during the previous four postseason games. Against the Dukes, she added 11 rebounds and a block along with her 11 points to guide the Cats to the championship. With a win this weekend, it would be a perfect ending for the only NU senior on the roster.

Email: andrewgolden2021@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @andrewcgolden

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