Women’s Basketball: Northwestern bounces back against Southern Illinois


Esther Lim/The Daily Northwestern

Sophomore forward Caileigh Walsh surveys her options on offense. The New Jersey native tallied a career high 24 points and made two threes against Southern Illinois.

Jake Epstein, Reporter

Northwestern entered Welsh-Ryan Arena on Saturday looking to make a statement at home. The team’s last contest, a 92-58 loss at home against Notre Dame, was marred by three first half ejections and poor efficiency.

But the Wildcats (2-2,0-0 Big Ten) came back strong with a 84-69 win over Southern Illinois (0-3,0-0 Missouri Valley).

The Cats caught fire from tip-off, as sophomore forward Caileigh Walsh tallied an offensive rebound then kicked out to sophomore guard Jillian Brown for a corner three-pointer. NU scored nine unanswered points before the Salukis tallied their first basket of the game.

Led by Walsh’s powerful play inside, the Cats dominated control of the action. As the first quarter ended, freshman guard Caroline Lau faked out a Southern Illinois defender and scored a driving layup to put NU in front 25-13.

The Cats simply could not miss in the second quarter. Coach Joe McKeown’s squad made 71.4% of its field goals in the second quarter. NU also went 2-for-3 from beyond the arc to put itself firmly in control up 52-34.

“We were pretty patient in our execution,” McKeown said. “We got the ball inside-out. We were able to run out some turnovers and get some quicker open looks.”

While the Cats had their most prolific offensive half of the season, the team’s defensive efficiency raised some concerns. The Salukis made 46.7% of their second quarter shots, and center Promise Taylor gave NU all sorts of problems inside. 

At the start of the third quarter, Taylor kickstarted a 6-0 run for Southern Illinois. The Cats ran into all issues in the paint with the Washington native, who led the Salukis with 20 points.

SIU’s quick start to the second half stalled as the third quarter ran on, and NU once again seized control of momentum by the quarter’s end.

Walsh, who was ejected in the second quarter of last Wednesday’s matchup against Notre Dame, looked at ease throughout the contest. The New Jersey native knocked down an early fourth quarter three-pointer and made one final basket to tally a career high 24 points. 

“I knew that it was my get-back game,” Walsh said. “That game against Notre Dame meant so much to me, and obviously it was taken away. But, that’s how life goes sometimes. I just had to get my head right, and all (of) my teammates and coaches had my back.” 

The Salukis held the Cats to their worst shooting quarter in the final period, as they converted just 5-for-15 from the field. However, it was too little too late for Southern Illinois, as NU finished with a victory and its highest scoring output of the season. 

Still, questions remain about the Cats’ shortcomings on the boards, as they lost the rebounding battle for the second straight game. After getting dominated 58-32 by the Fighting Irish, NU was outrebounded 43-35 Saturday. 

“(It’s) a big concern — not just numbers wise — but (on) different places on the floor,” McKeown said. “Mis-rebounding on missed free throws — that can’t happen. Fundamentally, you can’t let it happen, and (on) long rebounds I felt like we got beat to the ball.”

The Cats return to play against Niagara (1-2, 0-0 Metro Atlantic Athletic) on Tuesday at home. On the back of a two-game losing streak, and with their most recent game postponed due to inclement weather, the Purple Eagles look to steal a win in Evanston. 

McKeown said he is excited for his young squad to gain more experience before Big Ten play begins.

“I see some really great potential in this team,” McKeown said.” We’ve had a lot of injuries, (and) we haven’t practiced a lot. We’ve challenged our team with this schedule.” 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jakepste1n

Related Stories:

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

Women’s Basketball: Northwestern blown out by No. 9 Notre Dame in turbulent loss

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