Women’s Basketball: Northwestern’s poor shooting performance overshadows improbable comeback effort against Nebraska


Avery Levinson/The Daily Northwestern

Graduate student guard Sydney Wood shuffles defensively. The Maryland native tallied 12 points on 5-of-15 shooting against Nebraska.

Jake Epstein, Assistant Sports Editor

After a rough road trip to University Park, Northwestern returned home to Welsh-Ryan Arena on Monday, looking to return to the win column against Nebraska. The Wildcats (8-15,1-11 Big Ten) refused to go down quietly but ultimately fell 78-66 to the Cornhuskers (14-9, 6-6 Big Ten).

Junior forward Paige Mott entered the matchup off five consecutive double-digit scoring displays. Mott began the quarter on an especially sour note, picking up fouls on the game’s first two possessions.

“That was a tough way to start the game, when somebody who has gotten 23 points in a game for us, gets two fouls in 35 seconds,” coach Joe McKeown said.

Mott’s early missteps appeared emblematic of the battle’s beginning.

Nebraska tallied the contest’s first seven points before senior guard Kaylah Rainey put NU on the board with a three-pointer. The Cornhuskers then piled on four more points, causing McKeown to call his first timeout with 6:43 left in the first frame.

The pause in play did little to slow Nebraska, and it converted three-pointers on three consecutive possessions. Down 20-3, the Cats needed to quickly change the tide before things got out of hand. A 7-0 run, capped off by sophomore forward Caileigh Walsh’s outside jumper, gave the Cats a glimmer of hope.

With a minute left in the opening period, Mott picked up her third foul. Making matters worse, Cornhusker forward Annika Stewart knocked down a triple, extending Nebraska’s lead to 30-15 as time expired.

While Nebraska opened the scoring in the second frame, Walsh hit right back with her second three-pointer of the game. The Cornhuskers’ potent offense, which converted six first quarter three-pointers, subsequently went ice cold. NU held coach Amy Williams’ squad scoreless for over five minutes before Cornhusker guard Sam Haiby worked her way to the charity stripe and sank two free throws.

Despite converting just 2-of-14 second-quarter field goals, Nebraska held the Cats to a marginally better 4-of-16 shooting clip and entered the half up 37-25.

“We’ve got to find ways to make contested shots,” McKeown said.

Freshman guard Caroline Lau kicked off the second half with her fourth assist on a dish to Mott, but NU’s offensive engine wouldn’t ignite. Entering a media timeout with under five minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Cats had made just one shot in the period. The team’s defense and poor Cornhusker shooting kept the game within reach, but NU’s lack of offensive firepower proved concerning.

After Nebraska forward Maggie Mendelson hit a turnaround jumper to extend the margin to 18 points, McKeown signaled for a timeout with 59 seconds to play in the third quarter. The Cornhuskers closed the quarter in dominant fashion, and Haiby’s buzzer-beater three put the Cats in a 56-34 hole.

Graduate student forward Courtney Shaw opened the final frame with an and-one conversion, followed by a smooth driving layup. Just minutes removed from a 16.7% field goal conversion rate in the previous period, NU drilled its first two shots of the fourth quarter.

The early offensive sparks failed to generate significant energy, and the Cats missed their ensuing ten shots from the field. However, just when all appeared done and dusted, NU unleashed a relentless full-court press that forced four turnovers in 40 seconds, and the Cats clawed back to a 60-53 margin with 4:06 remaining.

While NU poured in 30 fourth-quarter points, Nebraska fended off the late scare, closing out a foul-filled final frame with a 78-66 road victory.

No. 8 Maryland will be the next conference test for the Cats in a Thursday home tilt. McKeown’s squad must improve upon its 31.8% shooting percentage to keep the contest competitive.

“We’re really close to being really good,” McKeown said. 

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Twitter: @jakeepste1n

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