Women’s Basketball: Northwestern struggles to regain momentum after third quarter meltdown at Nebraska

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Angeli Mittal/The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern’s Laya Hartman looks for a path to the basket against a Purdue defender. Hartman was the Wildcats’ best shooter against Nebraska on Sunday, shooting 4-for-7 from the field for 12 points.

MaryKate Anderson, Reporter

The first half of Northwestern’s 73-59 loss to Nebraska went about as well as the Wildcats could have hoped. 

Junior guard Laya Hartman was heating up from three, dropping 10 points on perfect shooting from the field. Three other NU players had found their own success behind the arc. And the score was close for the majority of the first half, though it often felt like the Cats were falling behind.

NU’s most prominent weakness in the first half was against Nebraska’s three-point shooting. Huskers Alexis Markowski and Isabelle Bourne were given multiple wide-open looks because of the Cats’ defense’s lackluster communication, but the NU squad somehow found ways to keep themselves even with their opponent and entered halftime down 30-27. 

The Cats’ composure fell apart after the break. Nebraska came out and hit two more open threes in less than a minute, and what was a three-point deficit quickly grew to nine. 

“They hit the back-to-back threes to open the quarter and it just caught us off guard,” coach Joe McKeown said. 

Multiple Husker fouls and turnovers seemed to tip the momentum in NU’s favor, but they could not capitalize, and the Cats found themselves on the wrong end of a 12-2 scoring run. From there on out, it was the Husker’s game.

Nebraska’s Jaz Shelley was the star of the court after halftime despite scoring only two points before the break. But Shelley exploited NU’s jumbled defense in the third quarter and notched a whopping 13 points in those 10 minutes. 

The sophomore guard shot a perfect 4-for-4 from the field in that quarter, including three three-pointers, and skyrocketed the Huskers to a 17-point advantage with just 10 minutes remaining to play. 

“It’s just a hard-fought game,” McKeown said. “We battled, but Nebraska played really well in the third quarter, we just couldn’t come back when we needed to in the fourth.” 

The Cats were outscored by a 2-to-1 ratio in the third quarter, and despite senior guard Veronica Burton’s best effort, they could not recover. NU ultimately lost to close out their regular season in the Cats’ sixth road game of the month. 

NU moves on to the Big Ten Tournament next week, where they will begin play on Thursday as the No. 7 seed. A memorable outing at the tournament will be necessary to lift the Cats off of the bubble and into the NCAA tournament in March. 

“We’ve done a great job (this season). Our players had to deal with a lot of adversity,” McKeown said. “So I’m really proud of them. They won some great games. And I think we’re excited about the postseason.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @mkeileen

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