Women’s Basketball: Walter: Northwestern struggles to fill holes left by Walsh, Shaw ejections


Seeger Gray/Daily Senior Staffer

Junior guard Jasmine McWilliams dribbles around a defender. McWilliams was one of three Northwestern players ejected from the game against Notre Dame on Wednesday.

Kate Walter, Assistant Sports Editor

Northwestern’s matchup against Notre Dame included the same number of player ejections as three-pointers made by the Wildcats, so it’s safe to say things were looking pretty bad for NU. 

Staring down a stacked No. 9 Notre Dame Wednesday, the Cats faced an uphill battle. The departure of 2022 WNBA draft pick Veronica Burton has only made matters worse on offense. 

When an on-court tussle near halftime led to the ejections of three NU players, including top scorers sophomore forward Caileigh Walsh and graduate forward Courtney Shaw, NU (1-2, 0-0 Big Ten) was in for a long night. 

Coach Joe McKeown’s team continued to grapple with Burton’s absence, falling to Notre Dame 92-58 in its second loss of the season. 

Walsh, Shaw and junior guard Jasmine McWilliams got the boot for coming off the bench during an argument with Notre Dame during the end of the second quarter. With the departure of Walsh and Shaw, the Cats were left without two of their top three season-leading scorers and trailed by 17 points at halftime. 

This loss in production meant the rest of NU’s bench would have to step up in the second half against the formidable Fighting Irish (3-0, 0-0 ACC). 

Before the trio of ejections for NU, the Irish outscored the Cats 21-14 in the first period, leaving a real dearth for the team to overcome. That gap only widened with the absence of Walsh and Shaw in the game’s second half, growing to a 30-point deficit at the end of the third quarter and 34-point deficit by the end. At the free throw line, NU made just 45.5% of its shots, compared to the Irish’s 65.6%. 

Though each of them played no more than seven minutes in this season’s games against Oregon and Penn, freshman forward Alana Goodchild, sophomore guard Melannie Daley, and sophomore forward Mercy Ademusayo got time on the court. 

There were some bursts of energy as players rotated in off the bench. Junior forward Paige Mott made an immediate impact when she entered the game in the first quarter, scoring three times and making two blocks within her first four minutes on the court. However, Mott raked up five personal fouls by the middle of the fourth quarter, slowing her momentum toward the game’s conclusion. 

With NU’s top-scorers banished to the locker room, Daley and Ademusayo led the team in points and rebounds, respectively. Daley’s eight baskets was the high on a night where no NU player put up double-digit points. Ademusayo’s six rebounds and six points were game highs for the sophomore. 

However, these numbers paled in comparison to Notre Dame sophomore guard Sonia Citron’s  24 points, including 10 rebounds and four out of five made three-pointers. 

Even with, yes, another ejection, in the third quarter for her second technical foul, Irish sophomore guard Olivia Miles, ranked the second top freshmen by ESPN last season, was the second point leader for the Irish with 21 points. 

It’s clear that NU will have to find a balance between its experienced players and youngsters. The Cats hold the steady hand of veterans Shaw and Wood, but sophomores Walsh, Daley and Ambeyaso may factor into the Cats’ equation for success, along with others. 

But there were some signs of life. Freshman guard Caroline Lau’s performance holds promise for the future, totaling four rebounds and two assists. Goodchild tallied the first points of her NU career in Wednesday’s game. These younger players made respectable contributions to the team’s effort despite a poor outcome against the Irish. With Shaw and Walsh back on the court, it’s unclear how much playing time they’ll get in the future. 

After facing steep competition in the opening stretch of the season with top ranked teams No. 21 Oregon and No. 9 Notre Dame, the Cats look to score some wins against unranked Southern Illinois, Niagara and Valparaiso at home to round out the month. Hopefully, NU can recreate its solid efforts against Penn on the boards and from the free-throw line to succeed in the rest of its November competition.  

It’s up to the Cats to iron out these kinks out and play ejection-free quarters before Big Ten play commences against No. 23 Michigan in December.  

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @katewalter03

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