Women’s Basketball: Northwestern comes up short 74-64 at Penn State after first-half firepower


Daily file photo by Angeli Mittal

Graduate student forward Courtney Shaw looks to make a pass. The Maryland native tallied nine points in 17 minutes at Penn State.

Jake Epstein, Assistant Sports Editor

Northwestern set off for University Park on Thursday, seeking a third consecutive victory to mark a major mid-winter turnaround. Penn State looked to defend its homecourt and regain momentum after dropping five of its previous six contests. The Wildcats (8-14, 1-10 Big Ten) could not maintain their first-half form, and the Nittany Lions (13-10, 4-8 Big Ten) ended their two-game losing skid with a 74-64 home win that evening.

Penn State controlled possession from the tip and Nittany Lion forward Ali Brigham scored the contest’s inaugural two points, but Wildcat junior forward Paige Mott immediately answered at the other end, knotting the game at two apiece. While sophomore forward Caileigh Walsh converted a deep jumper to give NU a 4-2 lead, Brigham tallied six unanswered points, forcing coach Joe McKeown to spend his first timeout.

The Cats fought back to a 10-10 tie after sophomore guard Jillian Brown’s jumper, but Penn State guard Taniyah Thompson knocked down a shot through contact and the ensuing free throw. NU was subsequently issued an administrative technical foul for an improper substitution, and Nittany Lion guard Shay Ciezki sank both technical free throws to complete a five-point possession.

Despite three-point makes from freshman guard Caroline Lau and graduate student guard Sydney Wood, the scoring margin remained at five, and Penn State led 23-18 after ten minutes of play.

The bench proved crucial for the Cats early in the second frame, and a Lau layup capped a 6-0 run, causing Nittany Lion coach Carolyn Kieger to call a timeout with the matchup tied at 25.

Fresh off the timeout, graduate student forward Courtney Shaw scored in the paint and gave NU its first lead since the contest’s second minute. NU’s defensive scheme — referred to as ”the Blizzard” — caused a flurry of Penn State problems offensively, headlined by five turnovers in the second frame. Despite three minutes without a basket, the Cats’ offense awoke after a Brown three-pointer. The team’s forwards had their way inside the paint, as Shaw and Brown combined for sixteen points off the bench, and NU entered the break leading 36-34.   

Junior guard Jasmine McWilliams grabbed an offensive board and tallied the first two points of the second half. Mott added in two points of her own, but Nittany Lion guard Makenna Marisa answered with Penn State’s first triple of the contest to cut the Cats’ lead in half. Ciezki knocked down a three of her own before Marisa hit another to grant the Nittany Lions a 45-42 lead.

McKeown had seen enough offensive firepower and looked to extinguish an 8-0 Penn State run with a timeout. The move slowed the rapid Nittany Lion scoring-streak, yet NU struggled to maintain possession or generate offensive production. Lau hit a crucial three to end a four-minute scoreless stretch, but the Cats’ nine third-quarter turnovers handed Penn State a 56-47 lead entering the final frame.

Needing its best offensive effort, NU turned to its leading scorer early in the fourth quarter, and Walsh delivered with her first three-pointer of the contest. Senior guard Kaylah Rainey called her own number from deep, tallying her first three points of the game to bring the match within five points in the remaining 8:15.

The Nittany Lions held a 66-59 lead entering the final media timeout, and the Cats had under three minutes to shift the contest’s course and steal a road win. One minute elapsed and the deficit stuck at seven, which prompted McKeown to signal for a full timeout.

Following the stoppage, Marisa converted an and-one to put Penn State ahead by nine. The Nittany Lions saw out the remainder of the matchup, earning a double-digit home victory.

NU looks to clean up its play at home against Nebraska (12-9, 4-6 Big Ten) on Monday after 23 costly turnovers — 16 of which came in the second half — Thursday night. 

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Twitter: @jakeepste1n


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