Women’s Basketball: Northwestern defeats Penn in home-opener


Maia Pandey/Daily Senior Staffer

Graduate guard Sydney Wood advances the ball upcourt despite pressure from a Quaker defender. Wood tallied nine points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals Sunday.

Jake Epstein, Reporter

Northwestern opened the season at home in the win column. 

The Wildcats (1-1, 0-0 Big Ten) entered Sunday’s contest against Penn looking to right the ship after a 43-point loss at Oregon. NU did just that, defeating the Quakers (1-1, 0-0 Ivy League) 63-55 to earn a much-needed first win of the year.

After losing the opening tip, the Cats quickly gained possession when graduate forward Courtney Shaw picked off an errant pass and then tallied the first two points of the contest. The Maryland native, who converted just one shot in the season opener against the Ducks, led NU by scoring 12 points total.

“I pride myself in how hard I play,” Shaw said. “The plays that I get for our team make a difference.”

After early back-and-forth action, the Cats found themselves up 20-13 at the end of the first quarter. Quaker guard Mandy McGurk and NU graduate guard Sydney Wood both tallied seven points to lead all scorers in the first 10 minutes.

Both teams came back to the court with cold stretches of shooting. NU and Penn shot 4-16 and 3-18 from the field, respectively, in the second quarter. The Cats’ efficiency from the line — where they shot 6-6 in the first half — allowed them to enter the halftime break with a 34-23 lead.

A halftime shootaround may have helped iron out some kinks. The third quarter was especially high scoring for both teams, and the Quakers converted on 57.1% of their field goals. Coach Joe McKeown said he was disappointed NU couldn’t “get stops when we needed to,” and he felt the Cats could have gone up by 18 to 20 points at times. 

Penn guard Kayla Padilla, a two-time First-Team All-Ivy League selection, entered Sunday’s game fresh off a 31-point outing in her season opener against Marist. NU rattled Padilla early, holding her to five points in the first half.

But the Cats were less successful keeping her quiet in the second. Padilla knocked down two shots from behind the arc to lead all scorers with 20 points.

“(Padilla) was our number one priority,” McKeown said. “She can score from everywhere, but we did a pretty good job frustrating her at times.”

A basketball player in a white jersey jumps and holds a ball over their head.
Senior guard Laya Hartman attempts a shot. (Seeger Gray/Daily Senior Staffer)

Following the high scoring third, the Cats tallied just nine points in the final quarter on a 2-12 clip from the field. Despite the inefficient ending to the contest, NU held off a late Quaker run to secure a victory.

McKeown praised his team’s improved effort on the boards. After losing the rebounding battle 41-31 in Oregon, the Cats outrebounded Penn 46-34 — including a 16-9 advantage on the offensive glass.

NU will host No. 9 Notre Dame on Wednesday, continuing their five game homestand. The Fighting Irish (2-0, 0-0 ACC) will come into Welsh-Ryan Arena averaging 89 points per game, posing a major test for NU. With five Notre Dame players averaging double-digit points this season, the Fighting Irish offense is lethal on multiple fronts.

“It’ll be fun, a great game. They’re going to be ranked somewhere in the top ten, as one of the best teams in the country,” McKeown said. “It’s just like playing at Oregon, and it’s going to make you better as you get ready for the Big Ten. We’ll be ready to play.”

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