Women’s Basketball: Northwestern crashes and burns in 62-48 loss at Rutgers


Daily file photo by Angeli Mittal

Sophomore forward Caileigh Walsh attempts a layup. Walsh tallied 14 points but ran into foul trouble at Rutgers Wednesday night.

Jake Epstein, Assistant Sports Editor

Northwestern and Rutgers faced off Wednesday at Jersey Mike’s Arena, with each squad looking to flip frigid February scripts. The Wildcats (8-18, 1-14 Big Ten) shot out to an early advantage, but a win was written in the stars for the Scarlet Knights (11-16, 5-10 Big Ten).

After a turnover-fest in the contest’s opening, Rutgers guard Erica Lafayette broke the deadlock before sophomore forward Caileigh Walsh drew a shooting foul and knocked down both foul shots.

Walsh quickly made her presence known in her home state, converting a post hook off a nifty move through contact. She then sank the ensuing free throw, capping an early 7-0 NU run.

Midway through the primary period, Walsh’s seven points proved the difference in the contest, as the Cats carried a 9-4 lead into the first media timeout.

NU cooled off offensively, as coach Joe McKeown’s squad was held scoreless in the first frame’s final two minutes. But a 3-of-13 Scarlet Knight shooting clip helped the Cats hold a 14-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Freshman guard Caroline Lau made sure the team’s scoring woes were a mere blip as she canned a corner three to kickstart the second frame. Senior Kaylah Rainey then drilled a deep three-pointer on the next NU possession before Walsh tallied another score on the next offensive trip.

The Cats rushed out to a 22-12 lead, forcing Rutgers coach Coquese Washington to call a timeout with 8:22 to play in the second period.

Walsh’s overpowering post presence granted the Scarlet Knights respite when the sophomore picked up her second foul three minutes into the frame, forcing NU’s leading scorer to the bench.

Rutgers capitalized off the Cats’ foul trouble, riding a 15-4 run to take its first lead since the matchup’s opening minutes. McKeown motioned for a timeout as his squad trailed 27-26, and the veteran coach subbed his star forward back into the game.

Fresh off the break, graduate student guard Sydney Wood scooped an errant Scarlet Knight pass and scored a layup to regain the lead. Wood’s defensive ability carried over to the next possession, as she tallied another steal which ultimately resulted in a second chance score by sophomore guard Jillian Brown.

Following 20 minutes of end-to-end action, NU held a slim 30-29 halftime lead.

Walsh opened the Cats’ second-half scoring tally with an outside jumper just moments after missing inside the paint. But Rutgers drove directly into the sophomore forward, forcing her into a troubling third foul 1:09 into the third quarter.

NU once again struggled in Walsh’s stead, tallying just four points and carrying a 2:46 scoreless run into a media timeout with 3:21 remaining in the third frame.

After two and a half minutes without offensive production from either team, Brown cashed in a corner three. This appeared to activate the dormant Scarlet Knight offense, which catapulted off a 6-0 run into a 42-40 lead. However, Walsh went 2-of-2 on a late charity stripe trip, and the teams entered the final frame deadlocked at 42.

Junior forward Paige Mott sank a layup to open the fourth quarter and propel the Cats back into the lead. But Rutgers guard Awa Sidibe turned defense into offense, snatching a steal and converting an and-one to give her squad a 45-44 advantage with 9:13 to play.

With less than five minutes remaining, Rutgers guard Kaylene Smikle drilled a downtown take, extending the Scarlet Knight edge to four. Wood scored at the other end of the floor, but Smikle forced Walsh into her fourth foul and hit 1-of-2 free throws to tally her 18th point of the evening.

McKeown’s squad then collapsed on both sides of the ball. NU kept the contest competitive for the bulk of the evening, holding the lead for 25:46, but Rutgers ultimately usurped momentum when it mattered most. Washington’s squad shut down the Cats’ offense and carried a 17-2 run to the contest’s close.

In a lesson on how not to tote the rock — with the teams combining for 47 turnovers — the Scarlet Knights put the pedal to the medal in crunch-time and won 62-48.

NU will return home to Welsh-Ryan Arena Saturday in a battle of the Big Ten’s bottom dwellers versus Minnesota.

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Twitter: @jakeepste1n

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