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The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Women’s Basketball: Northwestern showed flashes of consistency on both ends in 18-point win over Omaha

Audrey Pachuta/The Daily Northwestern
Junior guard Hailey Weaver leaps to contest a pass. Weaver had 15 points in Northwestern’s 87-69 win over Omaha.

In its matchup with Omaha Sunday, Northwestern had 40 valuable minutes to build a collective identity against a mid-major opponent. 

It took less than 10 minutes for the Wildcats (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten) to figure it out. 

NU came out red hot, leading 24-8 after one quarter. Omaha (1-2, 0-0 Summit League) did not score a field goal until 4:52 left in the first frame and turned the ball over 10 times. 

“We just really wanted to come out in this game, making sure that we knew we could dominate this team,” junior forward Caileigh Walsh said. 

In a conference that boasts some of the top scorers in the country — notably Caitlin Clark, Mara Braun and Mackenzie Holmes — defensive consistency will be of the utmost importance. And in the first half of their matchup, the ‘Cats defense certainly looked like it had the potential to give elite scorers trouble. 

The defense generated critical energy, which helped the offense get off the ground quickly as well. The team’s 3-point shooting, which seemed to be its kryptonite last year, suddenly became its superpower as the team shot 5-of-12 from distance. 

NU had seven scorers in the book at the end of the first half, led by junior guard Melannie Daley with 13 points. The ‘Cats scored 18 off the Mavericks’ 14 turnovers to take a 46-24 lead into the break.

“(It was) how you want to start a game,” coach Joe McKeown said. “But you got to sustain it.”

That’s where the tale of two halves began to play out. While the first half showed NU’s defensive potential, the second half showed the results of defensive discombobulation.

Mistakes on the perimeter allowed Omaha to put together a strong offensive showing in the second half, outscoring the ‘Cats 45-41. Omaha guard Katie Keitges scored 15 of her 18 points on five 3-pointers in the final 20 minutes. 

“(I) just feel like we left people open, didn’t block them out, turned the ball over,” McKeown said.

The ‘Cats also had to deal with foul trouble, in particular from Walsh, last year’s leading scorer. The New Jersey native picked up her fifth foul with 5:03 left in the fourth quarter — she also fouled out Thursday against UIC in the season opener. 

“I need to take more accountability to play smarter defense,” Walsh said. “There’s no reason that I should be fouling out of an Omaha game.”

Despite those second half struggles, NU’s strong offensive display allowed them to secure the win. All five starters scored in double digits and 29 of the team’s 35 field goals were assisted. Daley led the way in scoring once again with 21 points, finishing with her second game of 20 or more points this season.

McKeown said that after an injury-filled sophomore year, her improved health is reflected in the way she operates on the court. 

“When she misses a shot, she’s right back into play,” McKeown said.

As the ‘Cats turn their attention to their matchup with Notre Dame in South Bend Wednesday, it is imperative they take the challenge as an opportunity to grow — and a chance to upset the No. 10 team in the country. 

With nine games remaining in the nonconference slate, it is essential that NU capitalize on those learning opportunities.

“This is why you play these games,” McKeown said. “Hopefully, we’ll learn something to get ready for our conference.” 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @raj_ghanekar1

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