The Wildcats managed to keep it close for most of Thursday night's game against the No. 13 Purdue Boilermakers with a really scrappy defense, but ultimately fell short, losing 80-70. The loss drops NU to 12-9, 2-6 in the Big Ten.
Really, just one bad stretch of play, from about 2 minutes remaining in the first half through the first four minutes of the second half, doomed NU. Just before halftime, NU committed a couple of bad turnovers, leading to a 7-0 Purdue run, including a three-pointer at the buzzer, and the Boilermakers took a 43-33 lead into the locker room. Then the Wildcats came out a bit flat to start the second half with a couple more turnovers, before Kendall Hackney, in one of her more forgettable stretches of play, picked up her 2nd, 3rd and then 4th fouls in the span of 1:51, with 15:56 left to go in the game.
But let's not be too harsh on Hackney, who scored her 1,000th career point and became the 14th Wildcat to reach that milestone. Hackney, who finished with 13 points, is the team's leading scorer this season and probably the most consistent player game in and game out.
Dannielle Diamant finished with a team-high 21 points and 10 boards. The 'Cats did a great job of shutting down Boilermaker star guard Brittany Rayburn, who had a miserable 0-12 shooting night from the floor, finishing with just 4 points. But Courtney Moses and KK Houser picked up the slack for Purdue, scoring 29 and 21, respectively.
The only other notable tidbit about the game for NU is the Wildcat debut of Kate Popovec, who sat out last year as a transfer from Pitt and then missed the first 20 games of this season due to injury. Popovec came on as a first-half sub for Diamant and scored a basket on her first touch, a nice left-handed hook. She played 4 minutes and could be a key sub for the Wildcats, who have had almost no depth this year due to injuries.
Purdue came into the game 17-3, 7-0 in the Big Ten, so no shame in losing this one. But there are only eight games left in the regular season, so if the Wildcats are going to make the tournament, they need to make a run soon. Next up is a should-win at home Sunday against Indiana, which is winless in the conference.