Rapid Recap: Notre Dame 92, Northwestern 58


Seeger Gray/Daily Senior Staffer

Sophomore guard Jillian Brown. The Michigan native scored five points against Notre Dame on Wednesday.

Charlotte Varnes, Sports Editor

Northwestern couldn’t beat the luck of the Irish. 

Facing No. 9 Notre Dame, The Wildcats (1-2, 0-0 Big Ten) were unable to keep up. The Irish – who rank No. 19 nationally in scoring offense – tallied the opening points, and it was a game of catch-up for NU from there.

The game seemed increasingly out of reach as halftime approached and Notre Dame built a double-digit lead. A scuffle between the two teams only made matters worse for the Cats. NU’s leading scorer sophomore forward Caileigh Walsh, graduate forward Courtney Shaw and junior guard Jasmine McWilliams were all ejected for leaving the bench during an on-court argument. 

With their absence in the second half, the matchup truly slipped away for the Cats. The Irish outscored NU 26-13 in the third quarter alone, and had a sizable, 30-point lead entering the fourth quarter. Notre Dame star sophomore guard Olivia Miles was sent packing after earning her second technical foul in the third quarter, but her absence wasn’t enough to power a Cats’ comeback. 

Here are three takeaways from NU’s 92-58 loss to the Irish on Wednesday in Evanston. 

  • Irish defense gets the Cats frazzled in the paint 

Missed chances were a constant for NU throughout the matchup. Part of it was poor shot selection. Part of it was Notre Dame’s stellar defense.

Time after time, the Cats tried to make the most of opportunities in the paint. Whether driving in for a layup or searching for an offensive rebound, NU just couldn’t make it happen. The Irish had no trouble containing the Cats, forcing bad shots and turnovers in the paint on possession after possession. At times, NU was so scrambled that its passes went sailing out of bounds. 

The Cats had no luck crashing the boards, either. The Irish were quick on their feet, moving with their defensive targets with ease while significantly outpacing NU off the glass. At the half, Notre Dame had 24 rebounds to the Cats’ eight offensive rebounds. It was 34 to 11 by the game’s end.

Miles was especially dynamic prior to her exit, notching three steals, while four different Irish players recorded blocks. 

  • Defense struggles to find identity

The Irish’s defense shined. NU’s, not so much. As Notre Dame contained the Cats’ offense, NU’s defense was without a spark. 

The problems were wide-spread. If there was a rebound, it always seemed to be the Irish collecting it – never NU. The Cats were also especially heavy-handed in the first half, tallying 12 fouls to Notre Dame’s eight. The Irish were often left open on the three-point arc. And, of course, multiple technical fouls and ejections didn’t help matters.

NU’s defensive stat line was low across the board. Five players recorded a steal and the team tallied just 21 defensive rebounds in the matchup. Sure, the Irish are a challenging, top-ten opponent. But the Cats’ inability to gel defensively was glaring as they failed to stymie Notre Dame.

  • Growing pains continue

One thing is for certain: NU is still grappling with the loss of Veronica Burton. The Cats’ leading scorer in 2021-22, Burton was a force all over the court.

While Shaw and graduate guard Sydney Wood provide veteran leadership, NU’s rotation is primarily made up of inexperienced players and underclassmen. 

This crew has certainly been dynamic at times. Sophomore guard Jillian Brown making a graceful, driving layup toward the end of the second quarter and junior forward Paige Mott’s electricity on offense when she entered the game were certainly electric moments. 

This youth movement powered NU’s scoring. No player hit double-digits, but seven points from Walsh and eight from sophomore guard Melannie Daley led the way for the Cats. 

But the struggles often outweighed the highlight reel plays. Balls sailed out of bounds, seemingly wide-open three-pointers didn’t meet the basket and one Mott pass went straight to the Irish’s Miles in the second quarter. 

NU will look to address these woes against Southern Illinois on Saturday. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @charvarnes11

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