Rapid Recap: Duke 66, Northwestern 50


Daily file photo by Zoey Soh

Sophomore forward Caileigh Walsh shoots. Walsh poured in 13 points in Northwestern’s 66-50 loss against Duke Thursday.

Alex Cervantes, Assistant Sports Editor

In the final installment of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Northwestern traveled south to Durham, North Carolina, to face Duke Thursday evening. 

Fresh off of a three-game winning streak, the Wildcats (4-3, 0-0 Big Ten) were hoping to carry their success on both ends of the floor into Cameron Indoor Stadium. Despite tallying at least 76 points in its previous three matchups, NU struggled to score, falling to the Blue Devils (7-1, 0-0 ACC) 66-50.

The Cats’ clash started off bright as they opened up a 6-2 lead following a pair of buckets from graduate student guard Sydney Wood and a free throw from sophomore forward Caileigh Walsh. From that point on it was all Blue Devils, though. 

NU canned just three field goals over the final 15 minutes of the first half, with Duke stretching the advantage to 20 points at the intermission. 

The second half was more of the same as the Cats failed to build momentum, falling victim to several haymaker runs from the Blue Devils. NU’s energy picked up in the final frame, but the Cats could never cut Duke’s advantage to single digits. 

Licking its wounds, NU will travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to face the Wolverines Sunday. 


  1. Duke’s 20-0 first half run fuels victory

Some holes are just too big to dig out of.

Following Wood’s early five points, NU struggled to muster much of anything in the first half. The Blue Devils were the more cohesive bunch, swarming the Cats all over the court. From the 5:38 mark in the first quarter to the 6:20 mark in the second quarter, Duke held NU scoreless, while the Blue Devils poured in bucket after bucket to the tune of a 20-0 run.

A layup from Walsh — who led the Cats with 13 points — eventually stopped the bleeding, but the hosts blitzed the visitors. NU’s 10-minute scoreless drought handed the Blue Devils a sizable advantage that coach Joe McKeown’s squad couldn’t chip away at.

  1. NU offense struggles mightily against Blue Devil pressure

For the first time all season, the Cats were held to single digits in two consecutive quarters as Duke’s mix of a full court press and half court ball pressure gave NU fits.

The Cats dug themselves a nearly insurmountable deficit due in large part to poor ball security and struggles shooting from the field and at the charity stripe. Entering Thursday’s contest, NU was averaging 18.8 turnovers per game — the Cats had seven in the first quarter alone. 

McKeown’s side also struggled to get a bucket in the first half, shooting 5-of-31 from the field and canning just one triple on 10 attempts from distance. NU also failed to find any success at the line, hitting one of six free throws in 20 minutes of action.

The Cats eventually found rhythm in the second half, outscoring Duke 38-34 across the final two quarters, but the surge was too little, too late.

  1. The Cats’ struggles against Power-Five opponents gives cause for concern

Having now faced — and lost — to its third power-five conference opponent this season, NU has a lot to evaluate heading into Big Ten play.

The Cats have struggled against premier competition, failing to eclipse the 60-point threshold against Oregon, Notre Dame and, now, Duke. Conversely, NU has handled business against lesser opponents. 

The late and energized push against the Blue Devils in the second half provides some optimism, but McKeown is still searching for a complete 40 minutes of basketball from his squad against top competition. Matchups against Michigan and DePaul will afford the Cats a chance to test their mettle once more in the early season, before the Big Ten gauntlet truly commences in late December. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @CervantesPAlex 

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