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Northwestern rides defense to victory over Howard

by Callie Counsellor (@CCounsellor)

Northwestern did not have its ‘A’ game in the first half Monday night, but luckily for them, Howard struggled to find its ‘A,’ ‘B,’ and ‘C’ game, propelling the Wildcats to a 61-45 victory over the Bison.

“Just a little bit of a rough first half,” senior forward Kendall Hackney said. “But thankfully our defense was able to be solid and we were able to convert on some things. Our shots weren’t falling but we knew in the second half we were going to pick it up and they were going to fall.”

The Cats (3-0) scored 26 points and shot 40 percent in the first half—not terrible, but below their season average of 46 percent. The Bison (0-4), however, shot a whopping 23 percentage points below their season average of 37 percent, going 5-for-35 in the first half and scoring only 14 points.

Both teams picked up the pace in the second half—Howard doubled its shooting percentage to 31 percent and NU raised theirs to 48 percent—but the Cats never allowed the Bison to come within eight points, at one point leading by 23 points.

Part of the Bison’s offensive woes can be attributed to a staunch defensive effort from NU. The Cats held guard Saadia Doyle, the MEAC preseason player of the year, to 12 points, a week after she exploded for 36 points against No. 8 Penn State.

“I thought defensively it was probably our best effort of the year,” coach Joe McKeown said. “(Doyle) is a terrific player. She’s had some great games so far so I like how we played her defensively and made her take some tough shots.”

NU’s youth flexed its muscles once again, with freshman Maggie Lyon leading the way. The forward finished with 16 points, which led the team along with center Dannielle Diamant. Lyon, who said she wants to focus on her defense this year, showed improvement on that end of the court with four steals, including a steal and fastbreak basket to halt some Howard momentum in the second half.

Not to be outdone, freshman Lauren Douglas, the Big Ten Freshman of the Week, finished with five blocks, her best total of the young season.

“I thought the second half, (Douglas) made Howard take bad shots, tipped the ball, just a really great effort,” McKeown said. “She’s going to explode some nights, other night she’s going to have to earn it.”

NU plays one more game before breaking for Thanksgiving, taking the court Wednesday against Yale (1-3).