Women’s Basketball: Epstein: Northwestern’s offensive struggles continue


Wendy Huang/The Daily Northwestern

Senior guard Kaylah Rainey attempts a free throw. The Cats went 7-for-17 from the charity stripe against Indiana on Sunday.

Jake Epstein, Assistant Sports Editor

Northwestern entered Welsh-Ryan Arena seeking an upset against No.6 Indiana for its first conference win of the season. But, the Wildcats (6-9, 0-5 Big Ten) never reached an offensive groove in a 72-50 home loss to the Hoosiers (14-1, 3-1 Big Ten).

In an all too familiar fashion, NU allowed seven consecutive Indiana points before sophomore forward Caileigh Walsh knocked down a jumper to get the Cats on the board. Both teams converted shots at a similar rate in the first quarter, but NU’s six turnovers and inability to stretch the floor saw it trailing 20-12 after ten minutes.

Hoosier forward Mackenzie Holmes, who averages a team-high 21.1 ppg, scored Indiana’s first eight points of the second period. The Wooden Award Watch List honoree provided an offensive spark that the Cats failed to replicate. NU saw its share of struggles at the line, converting just two of five free throws, and Coach Joe McKeown’s squad trailed 40-24 at the half.

The Cats looked to conjure up second-half magic for the second consecutive game and went 7-for-14 from the field for its best shooting quarter of the contest. NU also knocked down three shots from behind the arc and outscored the Hoosiers 18-16 in the period. However, the Cats missed all seven of their foul shots, leaving them unable to make much of a dent in the Hoosiers’ lead.

“It’s really frustrating,” McKeown said of his team’s inability to convert foul shots. “We’ve got to clean that up – we’re better than that.”

Despite glimpses of third-quarter production, NU collapsed offensively in the final period. In a quarter where neither team converted at least 35% of its shots, the Cats made two field goals and tallied just eight points in the final ten minutes.

While Indiana’s three-point offense was well off the mark, NU’s inability to take the lid off the basket gave the Hoosiers a smooth path to victory.

“You have got to score the ball,” Mckeown said. “That (to me) is our biggest challenge…we got to do a much better job of finishing.”

Unfortunately, for the Cats, scoring troubles were just a small piece of Sunday’s 22-point loss, which was their seventh double-digit defeat of the season. NU struggled to gain and maintain possession of the ball, amassing 19 turnovers and losing the rebounding battle 46-33.

For a program that is 0-5 in Big Ten play for the first time in the McKeown era, adjustments must be made to merely compete in a conference stacked with five teams ranked inside the AP Top 25.

The Cats have failed to produce a complete performance in their four-game losing skid, and there lies no let-off in the squad’s grueling schedule with an away matchup at No.16 Iowa Wednesday.

“We need to take what we did (positively) in games and try to replicate that for the entire 40 minutes,” junior guard Jasmine McWilliams said. “We could have rebounded a lot better today – myself included – so that’s something we’re going to want to focus on the next game.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jakeepste1n

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