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Big Ten win eludes Northwestern again

by Callie Counsellor (@CCounsellor)

The problem: no Big Ten wins. The solution: unknown, but definitely not playing No. 25 Michigan in the midst of its 10-game win streak.

After a strong finish to the first half, Northwestern lost focus in the second period and went down to Michigan, 67-53, leaving them 0-3 to start out conference play.

“I really have no idea (what happened in the second half),” coach Joe McKeown said. “There’s an old saying in basketball—don’t let your offense be your defense—and when you can’t score, you miss shots, you get a little frustrated, you break down on the defensive end—that’s what we’ve got to prevent.”

Poor rebounding certainly contributed to the second half collapse, as did an absence of defending against the Wolverine’s best shooter.

The Cats lost the rebounding battle, 24-9, after halftime, which gave Michigan (15-2, 4-0 Big Ten) extra opportunities that they did not need given their 50 percent field goal percentage in the second half. Senior Kendall Hackney used the word “unacceptable” to describe several aspects of the Cats’ performance.

“(Rebounding) just feeds off of our defensive effort,” she said. “We guarded the shot well for the most part. When we were in a rotation we were actually there, but we got a good shot and (then) just watched the ball. We didn’t box out. When there were no bodies (being) putting on them, they totally outrebounded us which is unacceptable.”

Extra possessions meant more shooting opportunities for the Wolverines, including senior Kate Thompson, who made seven three-pointers and led her team with 23 points.

“We let their best player make open threes and that’s unacceptable,” Hackney said. “We can’t do that. That’s a big letdown on our part and that’s not smart of us because we knew she was the best shooter and we left her open and she made us pay.”

The Cats opened the game slowly, allowing Michigan to build a 7-0 lead before a jumper from freshman Maggie Lyon put NU (8-9, 0-4) on the board. The Cats fought back towards the end of the first period, going into halftime down 29-23.

NU missed five straight shots to start the second half as the Wolverines built a 37-23 lead. The downhill trend continued for the NU as Michigan’s lead peaked at 23 with just under eight minutes left in the game. The Cats made a run near the end but never came closer than 10 points.

The focus for NU now shifts to the next opportunity for a Big Ten victory: Sunday against Illinois. The Fighting Illini routed the Cats, 65-47, on Jan. 10.

“Every team in the Big Ten, we have to come out and play,” sophomore Alex Cohen said. “There’s no excuses. All we can do right now is just watch film, get better every day, go out and do what the scouting report tells us to do Sunday to beat Illinois.”