Women’s Basketball: Northwestern, stunted offensively, loses 74-61 to Ohio State Sunday in first game back at Welsh-Ryan Arena


Jonah Elkowitz/The Daily Northwestern

Senior guard Veronica Burton drives past an Ohio State defender into the paint for a layup. Burton led the team with 16 points, eight rebounds and six steals.

Skye Swann, Newsletter Editor

After defeating No. 22 Iowa Thursday, scoring its first ranked win of the season, Northwestern aimed to continue its success Sunday against Ohio State at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

However, the Wildcats (10-4, 2-1 Big Ten) struggled offensively inside the paint against the Buckeyes (11-3, 3-2 Big Ten), losing 74-61. Senior guard Veronica Burton led the team, finishing the contest with 16 points, eight rebounds and six steals. Alongside her, senior forward Courtney Shaw recorded seven rebounds and freshman guard Jillian Brown tallied nine points. 

“It feels great to be at home,” Burton said. “Obviously not the outcome we wanted, but it’s all about getting back into the rhythm of things and being able to play consistent at home is a big deal for us.”

More than three weeks after NU last played at home due to COVID-19 cases in the program, Burton said the Cats stepped on the court energetic and focused. A few minutes into the first quarter, the squad struggled to score, letting Ohio State go on a seven-point run. Contrasted with Thursday’s matchup against the Hawkeyes, NU lacked direction, playing scattered throughout the first 10 minutes.

Offensively, the Cats were four for 15 beyond the arc and shot 40%, statistics Burton said were the result of mediocre practices prior to the matchup. Despite making a comeback late in the first quarter, NU was unable to catch the Buckeyes, trailing by six points.

In the second quarter, the group switched gears, pushing the pace of the game and making layups inside the paint, ultimately coming within two points courtesy of a pullup jumper from Brown. But just like in the first quarter, the Cats hurt themselves with turnovers and missed shot attempts.

“Today, we just came out and played on our heels,” coach Joe McKeown said. “The pressure hurt us early and we had missed layups.”

McKeown felt the group could turn the game around in the third quarter, but Ohio State’s high-intensity defense in the backcourt stood as an obstacle. With NU being a smaller team, the Buckeyes’ size was a great challenge throughout. 

Halfway into the third quarter, the Cats were down by 14 points with no sign of bouncing back. Defensively, NU was having difficulty holding Ohio State from scoring. Its “Blizzard” defense, which played a central role in its success against Iowa, was not clicking against the Buckeyes. Although Shaw was a key player in the backcourt, the Cats were missing something. 

For the entire fourth quarter, the squad trailed by double digits, foreshadowing the end of the game before the final buzzer rang. Looking back on the 20-turnover performance, McKeown said the team is going to regroup and come back after this game. 

A mix of high pressure, lack of practice and many missed opportunities were the main culprits for today’s performance. McKeown emphasized that he is not worried because he has a “good group of players” that will keep fighting. 

The Cats will look to put the Buckeyes in their rearview mirror as they prepare to face in-state rival Illinois Thursday. With this being the first meetup of the 2021-22 season, NU will seek to get back into the win column for one of the biggest conference showdowns of the year.

“We don’t want to be in the habit of just settling,” Burton said. “We got to get in the gym. We have to knock down those shots and create for each other.”

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