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

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

The Daily Northwestern

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Women’s Basketball: ‘Sleep with it. Eat with it’: Northwestern has to take better care of the ball

Rachel Spears/The Daily Northwestern
Northwestern players huddle before the team’s game versus No. 20 Ohio State on Friday.

No. 20 Ohio State’s Taiyier Parks stole the ball from Northwestern junior forward Mercy Ademusayo in the final two seconds of Friday’s game —  a meaningless stat in the Wildcats’ 30-point-blowout loss to the Buckeyes. 

But the play likely wasn’t so meaningless to senior forward Paige Mott. The team captain said the Wildcats must value the ball more.

“Sleep with it. Eat with it. Act like it’s our best friend,” she said.

Exasperation overtook Mott’s face as she attempted to explain why NU turned the ball over 28 times against the Buckeyes — on the heels of a 30-turnover performance in a 40-point loss to Penn State. 

The turnover plague has run rampant through the NU locker room since the ‘Cats had 21 turnovers in a season-opening win against UIC. NU has posted double-digit turnovers in all but one game, including six games with at least 20 turnovers. 

Turnovers have come in every which way: steals, bad passes, stepping out of bounds, three second violations. Mott’s comments demonstrate frustration not with a single instance, but with the team’s overall mindset that has kept the plague around.

“I stepped out of bounds today, and that’s happened multiple times this season,” graduate transfer guard Maggie Pina said. “That’s just a lazy turnover.”

If an average of 18 turnovers per game persists, the ‘Cats will continue to struggle. They have only conference opponents on their slate the rest of the way, including No. 4 Iowa and Caitlin Clark. The reigning Naismith Player of the Year will run the ‘Cats out of the gym by herself with that many extra possessions. 

NU will need a complete change in mentality on offense to look anything close to competitive.

“I think it just starts in practice, pushing harder and being in better shape,” Pina said. “Because the first thing to go when you get tired is your brain. We start turning it over and doing a bunch of things that, if we were in better shape, they probably wouldn’t be happening.”

Once the intensity cranks up, NU needs to figure out how to beat a press. Right now, it’s easy to roll the ‘Cats by hounding them for 94 feet –– as the Buckeyes did for the entire game Friday. 

Assistant coach Maggie Lyon, who took questions Friday in place of coach Joe McKeown, said added pressure from Ohio State and Penn State contributed to the season-high turnover margins. McKeown has missed the last two games with an undisclosed illness.

Lyon did reiterate, however, that the ‘Cats are beating themselves at the moment.

“We’ve been trying more and more in practice to harp on that and stress the little things, not letting travels, charges, stepping out of bounds, three second [violations] affect us” she said. “Those are all turnovers that are self-inflicted, mental mistakes.”

Giving the ball away on the final possession of a guaranteed loss won’t matter when NU assesses its season up to this point –– but the attitude it conveys certainly should. The ‘Cats need to urgently fix their pervasive possession problem.  

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @colincapece 

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