And so it goes. The Wildcats lost another hard-fought game, 79-68, at Michigan last night, dropping them to 13-10 overall, 3-7 in the Big Ten. Their fourth loss in their past five games now has the Wildcats closer to last place in the conference than first, and the NCAA tournament hopes are barely flickering at this point. A third straight WNIT appearance would be a solid accomplishment for the program, in the grand scheme of things, but just like the men's team, hopes were a lot higher this season, especially after racing off to a fast start.
But let's not write the obituary yet on this team, because there's lots of basketball to be played, and the game against Michigan wasn't totally discouraging. After digging a hole in the first half, NU clawed its way back in the second half to tie the game at 44-44 with just over 11 minutes to play. But then Dannielle Diamant picked up her 4th foul on a silly reach, and Joe McKeown curiously decided to go with a small line-up with Kendall Hackney at center. Didn't work, as Michigan took advantage of Diamant's absence to go on a 14-6 run and never look back.
NU would get as close as within five down the stretch, but the rally never got over the hump. Morgan Jones led the Wildcats with a game-high 25 points, and Diamant had 20, just the latest in a string of very strong games for her. But Hackney was frustrated and held in check all night by Michigan's defense, scoring just three points on 1-6 shooting.
NU now gets a week to stew on the loss, before a Feb. 9 match-up at Michigan State, which is 13-9 and on the NCAA tournament bubble. This is about as must-win as it gets for the Wildcats.