Women’s Basketball: Northwestern suffers nail-biting 63-59 loss despite solid all-around performance


Alyce Brown/The Daily Northwestern

Senior forward Courtney Shaw goes up for a contested jumper against Penn State defender. Shaw hit a buzzer beater second chance layup to tie the game at the half.

Skye Swann, Newsletter Editor

In a back-and-forth contest against Penn State Thursday night, Northwestern senior guard Veronica Burton went to the foul line with nine seconds left in regulation, hoping to tie the score and send the game into overtime. 

The stakes were high, the squad not wanting another loss on the record after the upset loss to Michigan State. But Burton missed the second free throw, turning the team’s dream of a win cold. 

“It’s disappointing that we didn’t come out with a win,” coach Joe McKeown said. “I thought we played hard, but we just got outrebounded.”

The Wildcats (11-6, 3-3 Big Ten) fell short in a nail-biting 63-59 loss to the Nittany Lions (9-7, 3-3 Big Ten) Thursday. Burton led the team in scoring with 16 points and seven assists, while freshman forward Caileigh Walsh finished the game with 11 points. Despite the defeat, NU remained strong throughout the entire game, playing with high energy on both ends of the court. 

From tip-off, the Cats played aggressively, pressuring Penn State above the arc into turnovers and missed shots. Halfway into the first quarter, the lead changed four times, highlighting the grit and hustle from both squads. Compared to NU’s previous Big Ten opponent, the Nittany Lions transformed tremendously, playing with speed, agility and working as a unit inside the paint.

At the end of the first quarter, the Cats took a four-point lead — tying the largest point differential of the game. However, Penn State came back fiercer in the second quarter and stole the lead yet again. 

Multiple NU players stepped up to the challenge, including freshman guards Melannie Daley and Jillian Brown. Both players made crucial plays late into the first half to cut the Nittany Lions’ lead. Then, senior forward Courtney Shaw made a second-chance layup, tying the game heading into halftime.

“Defensively, our game plan was solid,” McKeown said. “We had good shots and good looks.”

Normally, the Cats start the third quarter with a slower temperament in an attempt to slow down the pace of the game. NU entered the third quarter with more fire and intensity than the beginning of the matchup. Junior guard Laya Hartman said at halftime, the group tried to focus on the game and remain energetic in the second half. 

Throughout the third quarter, the two teams battled back and forth, switching the lead numerous times. McKeown said the second half showcased the Cats’ hard-fought effort, especially on the defensive end. 

Although it was an offensive battle, NU’s backcourt was stellar throughout regulation, stunning the Nittany Lions with their “Blizzard” defense. The squad worked together, collectively moving between players and communicating off-ball in a mesmerizing fashion. The Cats’ defense ramped up the intensity even more in the fourth quarter as the clock dwindled down. 

The last minute of the game was the most memorable of NU’s season so far. With Penn State up only by three, the Cats were pushing to the lead. Burton and Walsh both went to the free throw line after consecutive foul calls, but it was already too late. The Nittany Lions got the last possession, ending the ballgame and handing NU their second consecutive loss. 

“We really got to focus on us and take care of the things we’re good at,” McKeown said. “It’s just timing. We have to be a little more patient.”

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