Women’s Basketball: Wildcats overcome sluggish start to defeat Wisconsin-Parkside


Caryl Shepard/The Daily Northwestern

Junior forward Paige Mott backs down a Wisconsin-Parkside opponent. Mott scored six points in the season opener.

Jake Epstein, Reporter

Northwestern opened its season with an 88-72 victory over Division II Wisconsin-Parkside in an exhibition match Tuesday.

With the departure of guard Veronica Burton to the WNBA, sophomore guard Jillian Brown is expected to become a cornerstone of the Wildcats’ offense this season. The 5-foot-10 Michigan native opened the matchup with an early three-pointer, but also amassed four turnovers in the first quarter.

“I feel like I was a little bit frantic those first few minutes,” Brown said.

Sloppy play and poor shooting would allow the Rangers to keep the matchup close, with NU holding a meager 16-14 lead after the first quarter on the back of Brown’s six points.

The game continued to be a dogfight into the second quarter, with Parkside not shying away from its heavily-favored opponent. At the end of the first half, the Cats held a 35-31 lead.

“We rushed a lot in the first half,” coach Joe McKeown said. “We dribbled into a lot of traffic.”

McKeown, entering his 15th season at NU, told his players to slow down the tempo of the game at halftime.

The Cats listened to their coaching staff and began to pull away in the second half. Improved shooting from beyond the arc, the field and the free throw line put NU firmly in the driver’s seat. Going into the fourth quarter, the Cats took a 66-51 lead and didn’t drop their intensity during the final stretch.

Sophomore forward Caileigh Walsh seemed to respond positively to the tempo shift, as the New Jersey native caught fire from the field. Walsh, a modern forward who can stretch the court, shot 3-of-6 from three and finished with 21 points. She also tallied 12 boards.

“I took last year personal,” Walsh said. “I know what I’m capable of, and I know that to be a great teammate, I had to do certain things. I just worked really hard on the offseason and I’m looking forward to having a better year.”

Walsh and Brown combined for 39 points. The sophomore tandem, who were the only two players shooting around on the court 90 minutes before tip-off, fed off each other’s energy.

“When Jillian makes threes, it really opens up the post for me,” Walsh said. “They were collapsing a lot, and once we started hitting threes – it was 4-for-7 (Brown) shot amazing – it paves the way for other players.

After the win, NU goes straight back to work as a tough non-conference matchup awaits against No. 20 Oregon on Nov. 7. 

The Ducks are the first of a difficult slate of matchups to open the season, where McKeown’s squad must prove they belong among the nation’s elite programs.

“We have a brutal non-conference schedule — we’ve played some great teams over the last seven or eight years — but this might be the toughest non-conference schedule we’ve played,” McKeown said.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jakepste1n

Related Stories:

Women’s Basketball: 2022-23 Wildcat entrance survey

Women’s Basketball: With Veronica Burton gone, other players step up

Women’s Basketball: A ‘dream come true:’ Northwestern legend Maggie Lyon returns as assistant coach