Women’s Basketball: Northwestern consistently battled back in first conference victory over Wisconsin


Daily file photo by Angeli Mittal

Sophomore forward Caleigh Walsh attempts a layup in the paint. The New Jersey native scored 18 points against Wisconsin.

Jake Epstein, Assistant Sports Editor

Coming off its first victory in more than a month, Northwestern traveled to the Kohl Center to take on Wisconsin in a battle of the Big Ten’s bottom two squads. The Wildcats (8-13, 1-9 Big Ten) did not make matters easy but came out on top 70-67 over the Badgers (7-15, 2-8 Big Ten).

NU appeared to have its best chance of snagging a first conference victory, but the first three minutes of play left much to be desired. Wisconsin soared to a 13-0 lead, converting five consecutive field goals before coach Joe McKeown called his first timeout.

The veteran coach likely lit a major spark during the stoppage, and his team’s intensity kicked up several notches after.

On the Cats’ first possession following the timeout, junior forward Paige Mott missed a layup inside but grabbed her own board and drew a shooting foul. Mott canned both free throws, and NU was on the board.

The Cats pressed the Badgers into five first quarter turnovers, and Mott’s eight first quarter points led the team back within five points after ten minutes. However, a 25% field goal conversion rate halted NU progress despite its relentless defensive pressure.

The first quarter shooting struggles compounded as the second frame commenced. The Cats shot 1-of-8 from beyond the arc in the first period, and the squad missed all four of its second quarter three-pointers.

“We’re not the Golden State Warriors,” McKeown said of his squad’s three-point capabilities after the win over Chicago State on Wednesday night.

NU received massive production from freshman guard Caroline Lau and sophomore forward Caileigh Walsh in its Wednesday victory, but they were held to a combined five points on 1-of-11 shooting in the first half Sunday.

The shots did not fall for the squad’s usual standouts, and the Cats made just 2-of-17 second quarter field goals. Wisconsin’s solid 7-of-12 clip proved the difference between the two sides, as the half closed at 39-26.

The Badgers opened the scoring in the second half, but NU quickly turned the tide with a series of points in the paint. Suddenly, the Cats caught fire and Walsh hit her first two three-pointers of the contest. McKeown’s squad forced six turnovers in three minutes and mounted a 17-0 run. After sophomore guard Hailey Weaver sank a layup, NU held its first lead of the contest.

Wisconsin coach Marisa Moseley chose not to expend a timeout, but a media timeout mercifully halted the onslaught. Both teams traded blows back and forth as the quarter ran on, and Walsh extended her point total to 18. Led by Serah Williams, the Badgers regained momentum and held a 56-50 lead entering the final period.

Williams opened the final frame with a jumper, but the freshman forward went down awkwardly on the ensuing Wisconsin possession and headed to the tunnel. Williams later returned after receiving treatment on her ankle.

Mott brought the contest within one possession and her point tally to 21 with fewer than five minutes to play. She then took a quick breather before returning and drilling a layup to bring the game back within one point.

Lau, who missed her first four shots from the field and her first three long-range jumpers, chose a perfect time to find her form. The Connecticut native found some space in the corner and let fly from beyond the arc. Capping off a 7-0 run, the Cats were back in front 68-66 with fewer than two minutes remaining.

Neither side knocked down a shot from the field in the closing moments, and Walsh picked up her fifth and final foul when she contested Wisconsin guard Avery LaBarbera in the paint. LaBarbera converted the first shot from the line, but missed the second.

The Badgers fouled their way into the bonus and sent sophomore guard Jillian Brown to the line. The Michigan native nailed both shots, and LaBarbera’s three-pointer at the other end rattled off the rim, cementing NU’s first conference win of the season.

The Cats look to continue their winning ways when they visit Penn State (12-9, 3-7 Big Ten) Thursday night.

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Twitter: @jakeepste1n

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