Women’s Basketball: No. 22 Northwestern showcases dynamic defense in win over Iowa

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Joshua Hoffman/Daily Senior Staffer

Veronica Burton blocks a jump shot. The junior guard helped No. 22 Northwestern slow Iowa’s potent offense on Saturday.

Drew Schott, Web Editor


Women’s Basketball


One week ago, Northwestern faced off against Michigan, one of the best offensive squads in the Big Ten. With a strong defense and the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in junior guard Veronica Burton, the then-No. 15 Wildcats had the chance to show why they remained one of the conference’s top squads against the then-No. 16 Wolverines. 

Instead, the maize-and-blue dominated NU in nearly every aspect of the game, showcasing a fast-paced and prolific offense in an 84-63 win at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Following the loss, Burton and her teammates reevaluated their defense. 

“We had to take a step back, look into what we needed to do,” Burton said. “We take a lot of pride in our defense. In the Michigan game, we were getting exposed in places that we don’t usually do that. So we just stuck to what we needed to do and what we do best.” 

That transformation was on display on Saturday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena, as the Cats (6-2, 4-2 Big Ten) held Iowa (8-2, 4-2 Big Ten) —an offense that averaged 92.1 points a game —  to below 70 in a 77-67 win. Star freshman Caitlin Clark, who came into the game averaging 27.5 points per contest, fouled out after scoring a season-low eight points as the Hawkeyes trudged to their lowest point total of the season. 

“It’s been a team effort,” coach Joe McKeown said. “All those guys really helped us defensively. They’re not gonna score 20 points, but they help you win.” 

The Cats’ defensive effort centered around slowing Clark and preventing Iowa from taking 3-pointers. The strategies worked well early on as Clark scored just two points on five shots and Iowa missed all four of their triples during the first quarter. At the end of the game, the Hawkeyes had made only five three-pointers on 19 attempts for a 26.3 percent clip. 

Meanwhile, pressure from NU transitioned into an up-tempo offense. Players found gaps in Iowa’s defense for easy layups and spread the ball around the floor for wide-open 3-point opportunities. 

The Cats shot a season-high 46.7 percent from behind the arc, a number boosted by senior guard Jordan Hamilton, who drained three triples on the way to a season-high 19 points. Additionally, a strong offensive output was strengthened with 28 points off 18 Iowa turnovers.

“Some of the things we talked about going into this game is keeping our pace, making sure that it didn’t turn into a run-and-gun situation and that we were just playing at Northwestern’s level of speed,” Hamilton said. “So for me, just making sure that I was being poised on defense. And in terms of offense, just being comfortable. They left me open a lot, so my teammates are really good at finding me.” 

In the second quarter, NU’s defense looked compromised — the Cats gave up 11 straight points in a four-and-a-half minute stretch of play. 

But the Big Ten’s fifth-best defense soon flipped the script. In the final three minutes and 20 seconds of the first half, Iowa turned the ball over twice and shot one-for-four from the field as NU tied the game at 36. 

The defense took over again late in the third quarter, as the Cats held the Hawkeyes scoreless for the final two minutes and 43 seconds of the period to take a 12-point lead.

As NU cruised to its 10-point victory, Clark fouled out in the game’s final minutes. 

“We did a really good job of trying to keep her in front of us,” McKeown said. “(We) tried to frustrate her a little bit. When she’d beat one player, we had somebody else there to switch out. We just kept running people at her.” 

The Cats will face the Hawkeyes again on Jan. 28 in Iowa City after playing Rutgers, Penn State, Illinois and No. 19 Indiana. Three of the teams have offenses ranked in the top eight of the conference, giving NU a chance to prove why they have one of the best defenses in the Big Ten. 

There are things that have to be fixed before the purple-and-white head to the Hawkeye State, like guarding players in the paint. Iowa center Monika Czinano scored 28 points and only missed one of her 14 shots. 

Hamilton is confident these issues will be solved — and that opposing teams will take notice. 

“We translate from practice into the game,” Hamilton said. “Going hard, making sure that everything is precise and neat so that we look good and play games as well.” 

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Twitter: @dschott328

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