Women’s Basketball: Northwestern’s comeback attempt falls short in 65-54 loss to Purdue


Daily file photo by Wendy Huang

Sophomore guard Jillian Brown scans the court. Brown had three steals Saturday against Purdue.

Lucas Kim, Social Media Editor

In its quest to collect its first conference win and bounce back from a five-game losing streak, Northwestern (6-11, 0-7 Big Ten) failed to capitalize on an impressive first-half run and fell to Purdue (12-5, 3-4 Big Ten) 65-54 Saturday.

Though they swept the Boilermakers in their two matchups last season, the Wildcats were not able to replicate their past success.

Turnovers played a large role in Saturday’s game: NU turned the ball over 25 times — the most in any of their conference games this season — including 14 turnovers in the first 14 minutes of the game.

“They just did a really good job of keeping us off balance,” coach Joe McKeown said. “We couldn’t push the ball. Again, you can’t turn it over like that.”

Five different Cats had three or more turnovers, mainly caused by Purdue’s aggressive full-court press defense that bothered NU ball handlers all afternoon. As a result, the Boilermakers were able to score 19 of their 65 points off turnovers.

Despite this high number, the Cats were never too far behind on the scoreboard due to their strong defensive performance and on-court adjustments.

“People were open, but we just didn’t execute with our passes. We were a little bit sloppy on that,” graduate student guard Sydney Wood said. “We had the right scheme. I think the coaches put us in a good position to break the press.”

One of these changes involved switching to a small ball lineup with one big on the court instead of two. NU’s largest deficit of the game came in the second quarter after being down 30-16. Looking to counter Purdue’s high-pressured defense, McKeown inserted a lineup with four guards and one forward.

The switch yielded immediate results as the Cats went on a 14-0 run to tie the game up at 30. NU scored three straight 3-pointers, including two from sophomore forward Caileigh Walsh.

“We were struggling in the second quarter, and we needed some pressure,” said McKeown. “We needed to create some turnovers and try to get some easy baskets. We were looking for maybe a quicker lineup on the court.”

However, this run wasn’t enough as the Cats entered the fourth quarter down six and weren’t able to mount another string of scores.

NU was led by senior guard Kaylah Rainey, who scored a career-high 14 points to go along with five assists and five steals. Rainey, who has played behind star guard Veronica Burton for the past three years, went 3-for-3 from behind the arc after going 0-for-3 last game against Iowa.

“I was feeling very confident,” Rainey said. “My teammates trust me to make that shot. So I was open, and I’m glad I was hitting it today because I know I wasn’t hitting it at Iowa City.”

Wood added 10 points and nine rebounds while Walsh had 10 points and five rebounds of her own. On the other side, senior guard Abbey Ellis put up a game-high 24 points, including three 3-pointers.

NU is set to face undefeated No. 3 Ohio State on Thursday. NU fell 81-48 to the Buckeyes back in December.

The Cats are now 0-7 in conference play, the team’s worst start in more than a decade. With 11 Big Ten games left in the season, McKeown says he is still hopeful about the rest of the schedule.

“It’s a long season and there’s two halves to it. We’ve been really good over the last four years in February,” McKeown said. “So that’s our goal: to use these games as learning experience with a lot of different lineups and young players. We’re asking a lot of our team right now, but we’ve proven we can do it.”

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Twitter: @lucaskim_15

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